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'The very definition of tyranny': Judge blasts Wisconsin Democratic governor's strict lockdown order

Republican lawmakers are taking measures to ease restrictions

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

As the coronavirus lockdown nears two months across America, judges are weighing the implications of strict stay-at-home orders issued by Democratic governors.

On Tuesday, a Wisconsin judge even suggested that Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' lockdown order is "the very definition of tyranny."

Evers issued Wisconsin's stay-at-home order on March 24. But on April 16, the state Department of Health Services extended the order, which is now set to expire on May 26.

Republican state lawmakers responded by filing a lawsuit challenging the legality of the extension, fearing the irreparable harm that would happen to Wisconsin businesses deemed "nonessential" if they remain closed for more than two months, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Wisconsin's Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday, and one conservative justice, Rebecca Bradley, did not hold back.

"My question for you is, where in the Constitution did the people of Wisconsin confer authority on a single, unelected cabinet secretary to compel almost 6 million people to stay at home and close their businesses and face imprisonment if they don't comply, with no input from the Legislature, without the consent of the people?" Bradley asked state Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth.

"Isn't it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work, among other ordinarily lawful activities?" she asked.

Roth, of course, claimed the extension was necessary for public safety, arguing more Wisconsinites would have died had the stay-at-home order not been extended.

The court will decide two issues: Whether state Health Secretary Andrea Palm violated state law governing emergency orders by extending Evers' lockdown order and whether the state DHS has exceeded its power.

Ultimately, the GOP legislators who brought the suit are seeking to have the stay-at-home order rolled back as the COVID-19 curve flattens.

Conservative justices hold a 5-2 majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, indicating they may grant the legislators the relief they seek.

Wisconsin has had at least 8,566 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and at least 353 deaths from the virus.

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