State justice blasted for saying COVID-19 surge was at meat plant, not among 'regular folks'

  • Print.

coronavirus concept

Image from Shutterstock.com.

Wisconsin Chief Justice Patience Roggensack is facing a torrent of criticism for her remark about an outbreak of COVID-19 during Tuesday oral arguments on the legality of an extended stay-at-home order.

Roggensack spoke after a lawyer for Gov. Tony Evers said novel coronavirus cases in Brown County had leaped more than tenfold in just two weeks, report the Washington Post and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“These were due to the meatpacking, though,” Roggensack said. “That’s where Brown County got the flare. It wasn’t just the regular folks in Brown County.”

The Zoom hearing took place to consider whether health officials had the authority to extend the governor’s stay-at-home order for an additional four and a half weeks. GOP lawmakers contend that any public health directives have to go through statutory rule-making procedures.

Advocates for workers and Democratic politicians were quick to criticize Roggensack’s remark.

“It is shocking and deeply offensive that Justice Patience Roggensack would suggest that workers in meatpacking plants aren’t ‘regular folks’ who deserve protection,” said the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1473, which represents 5,000 meat-packing workers in the state.

“Our hardworking members live, work and raise our families in Wisconsin and have been a part of the fabric of those communities for decades. These brave men and women are keeping our food supply chain strong when we need it most. We expect better from our state’s leaders during this crisis.”

Defending Roggensack was Rick Esenberg, president of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

“I don’t think she was being dismissive of employees at the plant,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “She was just saying that she didn’t think there was a general outbreak in the county.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.