A rather bizarre twist in a judge’s ruling on the constitutionality of the sale of home-baked goods has three Wisconsin women moving ahead to a Plan B.
Lafayette County Judge Duane Jorgenson ruled May 31 that a Wisconsin law that bans people from selling home-baked good is unconstitutional, ruling in favor of Lisa Kivirist of Browntown, Kriss Marion of Blanchardville and Dela Ends of Brodhead. The women had challenged the law, saying it made it virtually impossible for home bakers to legally sell their goods.
The women and others assumed that if the law was found unconstitutional, all home bakers in Wisconsin would be allowed to sell their baked goods. But in a July 26 clarification, Jorgenson said his ruling applies only to the three women.
“I’m very reluctant to extend this order to similarly situated individuals because I believe it goes beyond the scope of what this court’s decision was,” Jorgenson said during a court hearing.
He said if 50 people had been plaintiffs in the lawsuit, then 50 people would have been allowed to bake. The number of people wasn’t important, but the people had to be listed as plaintiffs to be covered by his ruling, the judge said.
Kivirist said she and the other plaintiffs were surprised by the judge’s ruling, figuring that everyone would be allowed to sell home-baked goods after the May 31 decision.
“I took high school civics a while ago, but if something is unconstitutional for one person, it should be for everybody,” Kivirist said. “The judge’s interpretation is both unusual and concerning. It has never been about us three plaintiffs, it’s about everybody. We took this on so everybody can bake.
“This was a disappointing curve ball, but we’ll keep fighting.”
Kivirist said a new tactic could be to add the Wisconsin Farmers Union as a plaintiff, so any member of the organization would be able to sell home-baked goods.
“It will be an easy-on ramp for people who want to start baking to do so,” she said. “It’s silly to have to go this route, but it can be done.”
She said that step will likely be taken in September if the situation isn’t resolved before then.
The Wisconsin Senate passed a bill in June that would allow people to sell up to $25,000 worth of home-baked goods per year without obtaining a food-processing license. Kivirist described the legislation as a “strong, collaborative bill,” but the situation is the same as it has been in previous legislative sessions — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has declined to put a companion bill on the Assembly schedule for a vote.
Vos has circulated a separate bill that would eliminate food-processing plant license requirements for bakers of all sizes.
A spokesperson in Vos’s office declined comment on the issue.
State officials have continued to enforce the baking ban against everyone but the three southern Wisconsin women, attorney Erica Smith said.
Meanwhile, the three plaintiffs said they want home bakers to put pressure on the Assembly to vote for the Assembly version of the cookie bill. The Senate bill, which has already passed, is opposed by the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, the Wisconsin Grocers Association, the Wisconsin Public Health Association and the Wisconsin Bakers Association.