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Racine COVID-19 Regulations Ruled Unconstitutional By Circuit Court Judge

Decision Claims Restrictions Are Vague And Overbroad

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A circuit court judge has ruled that the City of Racine’s regulations aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 are unconstitutional, leaving the city with no way to enforce social distancing requirements in public or in businesses.

On Wednesday, Judge Jon Fredrickson issued a decision stating that an ordinance passed by the Racine City Council on June 22 is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. He said the ordinance, which is based on a 17 set of standards titled Safer Racine, is confusing and requires citizens and business owners to click through other guidance documents from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and Centers for Disease Control.

“This Court finds that no average person of ordinary intelligence can make sense of its sprawling breadth. Any citizen without a computer or cell phone will not have access to the full ordinance, and will not be able to comply,” said Fredrickson. “It is clearly and beyond any reasonable doubt unconstitutionally overbroad and vague, and it is not severable. As such, this Court has no other option than to hold the entire ordinance, as drafted, unconstitutional.”

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Fredrickson said he has a “deep and profound respect for local government, and its powers to protect the people” and that while he’s striking down Racine’s existing COVID-19 ordinance, the city “maintains its full power to issue a new ordinance addressing COVID-19.”

Racine Mayor Cory Mason said the city is appealing Fredrickson’s ruling and council members are leery about crafting a new ordinance.

“How do we know if what we do next would be upheld or not?” asked Mason. “Because the judge has made this absurd ruling where he makes up the laws himself as to what’s appropriate and what’s not.”

Mason said the ruling is irresponsible and the result of an activist judge deciding the city doesn’t have the authority to protect its own citizens.

“And, you know, if he feels strongly about it, he can run for the city council and debate it there,” said Mason. “But he’s made the law up as a judge.”

According to Racine’s coronavirus cases dashboard, there have been 1,468 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 26 deaths within the city.

“If more people die, this will partially be on Judge Fredrickson’s hands for taking our tools away to keep the community safe,” Mason said.

The lawsuit that led to the ordinance being struck down was brought by David Yandel, who owns Harbor Park CrossFit in Racine. Yandel didn’t respond to requests for an interview Thursday, but previously told WPR he sued in order to defend his constitutional rights for himself, his wife, their business and all citizens in the city.

Yandel said their business reopened June 1 and now requires customers to sign waivers releasing them from liability if someone contracts COVID-19 or other communicable diseases.

Mayor Mason said the city has already filed an appeal that asks Judge Fredrickson to overturn his own decision. He said that’s unlikely and the city is prepared to immediately petition a state appeals court to block Fredrickson’s ruling and allow them to enforce their COVID-19 regulations.

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