Judge Opens Door To Let All Wisconsin Home Bakers Sell Their Cookies, Cakes, Pies

Things just got a lot sweeter for Wisconsin home bakers looking to make a buck off their baked goods. A state judge has clarified that his recent ruling against the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture means that anyone in the state who wants to sell home-baked goods is free to do so.

Let Me Be Clear

In May, Lafayette County, WI, circuit court judge Duane Jorgenson sided with a trio of bakers who had sued — in association with libertarian group Institute for Justice — to challenge a state ban on the sale of home-baked goods. However, it wasn’t clear if the judge’s ruling applied to all of Wisconsin or just the three plaintiffs, who said that the state was still enforcing the ban on other home bakers.

And so the matter came back to Jorgenson this week, with the judge issuing a supplemental decision [PDF] that makes it clear that the everyone in the state is now free to sell their homemade breads, brownies, pies, cookies, and… is anyone else getting hungry?

Although state officials had argued that the ruling should only apply to the three plaintiffs, the judge disagreed, writing that the decision “should and can be extended to those other individuals that are similarly situated to the plaintiffs.”

“This court finds that there is no set of circumstances where the state could rationally require a home backer (as they call themselves), who seeks to sell commercially non-hazardous baked goods,” providing that the products are shelf stable, and the bakers keep their kitchens clean, he wrote.

The judge also issued a final order and judgment [PDF] for purposes of appeal, barring the defendants from enforcing the ban.

A Bit Of Bake-ground

The bakers filed their lawsuit last year challenging a law that required anyone selling baked goods to the public to have a licensed commercial kitchen. At that time, jams, jellies, salsa, and pickles could all be sold to the public at farmers’ markets and elsewhere without such a license.

In May, Judge Jorgenson ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, saying that the law was unconstitutional.

“I don’t see that there is a rational basis for the statutory scheme and I frankly don’t see any evidence of any real risk of harm to the public in general,” he said in his oral ruling.

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Justice tells Consumerist that it’s reviewing the decision “and consulting with our client, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection on the next step.”

One home baker says she stopped selling her cakes and cupcakes earlier this year after the state issued a cease and desist order against her.

“This is a win for all of us home bakers,” she said in a statement. “I can’t wait to start baking again!”

Law enforcement also threatened her with a $10,000 fine and a year in jail for selling treats out of her home, she says.

“This ruling is a major step for economic liberty and common sense in Wisconsin,” said lead attorney Erica Smith, noting that Wisconsin was one of only two states to have such a ban; New Jersey is the other.

Sorry, New Jersey.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.