MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Business owners, candidates for office, a pastor and one of the organizers of last month’s “reopen Wisconsin” protest at the Wisconsin Capitol have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that local stay-at-home orders are unconstitutional.
The lawsuit, filed by 17 Wisconsin residents Wednesday in federal court in Milwaukee, challenges the local orders that took effect after the state Supreme Court last week tossed out Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide “safer at home” order as unconstitutional. The new lawsuit names 21 state and local Wisconsin public safety and health officials, including Evers and all members of the state elections commission, as defendants.
The lawsuit asks the judge to declare the local orders unconstitutional and void them all.
The lawsuit claims violations of the constitutional rights of assembly, free speech, exercise of religion and equal protection. It also argued that two candidates for office, one for state Assembly and another for Congress, were impaired in their ability to circulate petitions to collect nomination signatures to get on the ballot because of local stay-at-home orders.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said last week that the local orders, many of which have already been rescinded, were legal. Ryan Nilsestuen, Evers’ attorney, said Thursday that he was confident the new lawsuit will “go nowhere,” noting the Kaul opinion.
Madison Marie Elmer, who organized a Capitol rally that attracted about 1,500 p eople last month, is among those bringing the lawsuit. Others include the Rev. Daniel Jay Quakkelaar, pastor of the Friend of Sinners Mission Church in Milwaukee; Cindy Werner, a Republican congressional candidate in Milwaukee; Jay Schroeder, a candidate for state Assembly in Neenah; and Blong Yang, owner of the Eggrolls Inc., restaurant in Appleton.
They are represented by Joseph Voiland of Veterans Liberty Law. Voiland served as an Ozaukee County Circuit Court judge from 2013-2019.