On Tuesday, a judge made an interim ruling upholding a temporary injunction requiring the department to open the Wisconsin State Capitol to members of the public during business hours and when governmental business is conducted.
Plaintiff attorney Peggy Lautenschlager said this likely means Capitol access will continue to be based on the Department of Administration's interpretation.
In a press release, the DOA announced Wednesday they would use the same rules as Tuesday.
The defense, argued by DOA Secretary Michael Huebsch, maintained they were within constitutional limits because the Capitol was not closed to those who "had business" with legislators.
According to Huebsch, the DOA felt it needed to implement standards for access in order to maintain a "professional working environment" for Capitol staff. "The rules about the Capitol being closed for certain hours are not new rules," he said. "They were relaxed for a certain period of time, and that was disruptive, but now it's back to normal business."
Huebsch cited further concerns ranging from building capacity and fire safety to hygiene and the presence of unlicensed childcare services within the building.
Lautenschlager disputed his claims, bringing forward witnesses who testified to protesters' cleanliness and good behavior. "I think it's important for the court to recognize that what the DOA has put on paper is not what's playing out at the Capitol doors," she said.
Witnesses detailed the difficulties of accessing the Capitol, even if they had a meeting scheduled with representatives.
Dr. Chris Hunter took the stand to describe her struggles to meet with Sen. Mark Miller's staff Monday. Despite having an appointment, Hunter said officers outside the Capitol's King Street doors refused to let her in until she called Miller's staff to come down and grant her access.
Once inside, Hunter, who has vertigo, faced the daunting task of accessing Miller's fourth floor office in a building whose elevators were reportedly shut down.
Hunter says she told an officer: "I have a disability, I have vertigo. Is there an elevator working?" She says the officer told her "no," relegating her to a four-story climb.
Madison Fire Department Lieutenant Joe Conway Jr. testified to the Capitol's fire safety. Although he did not make a professional inspection, Conway said he thought exits seemed clear and the environment was safe even when the building was full of protesters.
Judge John Albert said he was interested to hear official testimony on the building's fire capacity, as well as the DOA's "standards of access." Additionally, the judge noted, "There is no evidence so far of damage to state property."
Huebsch replied: "You don't buy car insurance after you've had an accident, you buy it before. And there are certain procedures that are taken to prevent problems."
Lautenschlager suggested other motives. "There were no problems in the Capitol other than it was filled with people every day," she said. "Suddenly on the day before the governor's speech, there was significantly limited access for those that were trying to express their opinion."
The hearing will continue Wednesday at 9 a.m.