Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm

State: Wisconsin

Filed: April 29, 2020

Court: Wisconsin Supreme Court

Overview: National and state disability and aging groups filed an amicus brief explaining the heightened risks to people with disabilities and older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic in a case challenging Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order. The brief argued that should the order be enjoined, more Wisconsinites will inevitably contract the virus and people with disabilities and older adults will experience life-threatening consequences at a far higher rate than the rest of the population. This will, in turn, overwhelm an already overburdened healthcare system (dealing with limited supplies of crucial equipment), which will disproportionately harm people with disabilities and older adults who face an exponentially higher risk of contracting the virus in a life-threatening capacity that requires hospitalization.

Excerpt: “The spread of COVID-19 is especially dangerous to people with disabilities and older adults for several reasons. First, for health-related reasons, people with disabilities and older adults are at greater risk of serious complications and death if exposed to the virus. Second, they are more likely than other adults to live in congregate settings, such as group homes or nursing homes where COVID-19 rates of infection and fatality have been disproportionately high and will only worsen if the Order is enjoined. Third, people with disabilities and older adults, whether living in congregate or community-based settings, often require assistance from a workforce that cannot maintain social distance while supporting them in their daily lives. The nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment (“PPE”) puts both staff and those they are supporting at higher risk of contracting the virus, which will only be exacerbated if the Order is enjoined. Fourth, people with disabilities and older adults are at greater risk of being denied life-saving medical treatment if an uncontrolled outbreak forces rationing of medical care, due to the likelihood of discrimination. Finally, people with disabilities and older adults are more likely to live in poverty and experience homelessness, which is an additional risk factor for contracting COVID-19. For all these reasons, risks to the lives of persons with disabilities and older adults would only be heightened if this Court were to enjoin the State’s efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

Status: The Wisconsin Supreme Court granted the request for an injunction, thereby invalidating the state’s extension of the stay-at-home order.

Case Documents

Amicus Brief

Related Media

Press Release: Over 30 Groups File Amicus Brief in Wisconsin Regarding Heightened COVID-19 Risks to People with Disabilities & Older Adults

Milwaukee Journal Sentinal:
Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order that closed businesses to limit spread of coronavirus

New York Times: Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Stay-at-Home Order