Supreme Court strikes down governor’s COVID orders.

October 2, 2020

File photo.

Supreme Court strikes down governor’s COVID orders.

LANSING — The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday struck down the COVID-19 related executive orders by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that have been imposed on the State of Michigan for the last several months. 

The court ruled that the governor illegally drew authority from a 1945 law that doesn’t apply.

The court said the law was an “unlawful delegation of legislative power to the executive branch in violation of the Michigan Constitution.”

The decision occurs the same day Whitmer has ordered tighter restrictions on the Upper Peninsula. It follows months of struggles between Whitmer, a Democrat, and the Republicans who control the Legislature who have complained that they’ve been shut out of major orders that have restricted education, the economy and health care.

State Rep. Jack O’Malley (R, Lake Ann), who represents the 101st District, which includes Mason County, said he was thrilled with the news. “This was a misinterpretation of a 1945 statute and an overreach by the Governor,” O’Malley said. “Our country and state are based on three branches of government and Gov. Whitmer, for whatever reason, decided to go another way.”

O’Malley said there are questions about when the ruling will take affect. “There are executive orders in place that need to be codified into law,” he said, “which is much of what we, the legislators, were trying to do back in April when the governor went her own way.” 

State Sen. Curt VanderWall (R, Ludington), who represents the 35th District, which includes Mason County, echoed O’Malley.

“I am glad the Supreme Court ruled as it did,” VanderWall said. “This is what we have been saying all along that there are three branches of government and we need to be running our state that way. This will now allow us to work together using the data and science to best manage the end of this virus. However, this dos not make it OK to do whatever anyone wants. I strongly encourage people to still practice social distancing, washing their hands and wearing masks. This virus is far from over and we will work together to safely open our state back up.”

In its 71-page ruling, the court also found Whitmer did not possess the authority to exercise emergency powers under the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act because the act violates the Michigan Constitution.

The ruling concluded the 1945 act violated the Michigan Constitution because it delegated to the executive branch the legislative powers of state government and allowed the executive branch to exercise those powers indefinitely.

“… the Governor only possessed the authority or obligation to declare a state of emergency or state of disaster once and then had to terminate that declaration when the Legislature did not authorize an extension; the Governor possessed no authority to redeclare the same state of emergency or state of disaster and thereby avoid the Legislature’s limitation on her authority,” the ruling said.

The ruling said while the EPGA only allows the governor to declare a state of emergency when public safety is imperiled, “public-health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic can be said to imperil public safety.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the question of the 1976 Emergency Management Act was unanimous. But the ruling on the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act saw a 4-3 split.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling, handed down by a narrow majority of Republican justices, is deeply disappointing, and I vehemently disagree with the court’s interpretation of the Michigan Constitution,” Whitmer said. “Right now, every state and the federal government have some form of declared emergency. With this decision, Michigan will become the sole outlier at a time when the Upper Peninsula is experiencing rates of COVID infection not seen in our state since April.

“It is important to note that this ruling does not take effect for at least 21 days, and until then, my emergency declaration and orders retain the force of law. Furthermore, after 21 days, many of the responsive measures I have put in place to control the spread of the virus will continue under alternative sources of authority that were not at issue in today’s ruling.”

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