June 1, 2021 – The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently issued pandemic-related orders, including one that “no longer requires that personal masking, social distancing, and sanitizing court facilities be part of any plan for circuit court and municipal court proceedings.”
Previously, by supreme court order, circuit and municipal courts were required to operate under COVID-19 safety plans with all participants in the courtroom required to wear face coverings and have protocols for social distancing and regular sanitation.
Those requirements are now lifted under the court’s most recent order, which notes newly confirmed cases are decreasing significantly because of vaccines.
The order also notes recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which says fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or social distancing. The supreme court’s statewide order is no longer in effect.
“Instead, circuit courts and municipal courts, with the approval of the applicable chief judge, shall make county-wide decisions about what is in the best interest of circuit court and municipal court operations, respectively,” the order states.
“This includes deciding whether or not to continue to require masking, social distancing, and sanitizing court facilities on a county by county basis.”
The supreme court also issued interim orders that relate to admission to the bar ceremonies and proceedings in attorney regulatory matters. Both supersede prior orders that suspended in-person ceremonies/proceedings amid COVID-19.
In a May 21 order, the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied a request from Legal Action of Wisconsin to enter a statewide residential tenancy eviction moratorium until June 30, 2021.
“Although this court is mindful of both the COVID-related financial challenges facing many landlords and tenants and the importance of limiting COVID's spread, the court is mindful, too, of its proper role,” the order states.
“Legal Action essentially asks this court to weigh the interests of tenants, landlords, and public health, and to declare that, as a matter of policy, the balance must be struck in favor of protecting tenants from eviction. This is a legislative choice. To obtain the relief it wants, Legal Action must prove the merits of its request in the political arena, not here.”
In a brief concurrence, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley noted that “Legal Action of Wisconsin fails to carry the burden of demonstrating what authority this court has, or with considerations of comity, should exercise in the instant situation.”
She also noted that a nationwide moratorium on evictions is being litigated in federal court but “remains in effect, given that the United States District Court for the District of Columbia has temporarily stayed its order vacating the eviction moratorium.”