Illinois judge rules against Pritzker’s extension of stay-at-home order

Illinois judge rules against Pritzker’s extension of stay-at-home order

The judge said Pritzker’s executive orders “shredded the constitution,” highlighting the need for the Illinois General Assembly to play a role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Clay County Circuit Court judge on April 27 issued a temporary restraining order against Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s extension of his statewide stay-at-home order.

State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, filed the lawsuit late last week, alleging Pritzker exceeded his authority by extending his emergency powers beyond the 30-day limit of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act.

Pritzker’s March 20 executive order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic limited residents to their homes except to perform certain essential activities spelled out in the order.

That stay-at-home order was based on emergency powers stemming from Pritzker’s first COVID-19 disaster proclamation issued March 9 and expiring April 7. Pritzker made a second disaster proclamation on April 1, extending his emergency powers to April 30. He planned to make a third proclamation to extend his emergency powers further.

But Judge Michael McHaney said Pritzker’s actions “shredded the constitution,” according to WCIA reporter Mark Maxwell.

“In Illinois, and nationally, we are operating on decades of precedent, in terms of how disaster proclamations work – from floods to tornadoes and now a global pandemic,” Pritzker said in response to the ruling. “Disasters don’t necessarily evaporate on a 30-day timeframe.” He continued to say that “[t]his ruling has put the people of Illinois at risk.”

House Speaker Mike Madigan echoed Pritzker. “I find Representative Bailey’s lawsuit to be extremely reckless, at a time we can least afford it,” Madigan said in a press release. “The governor’s actions have consistently reflected an understanding that, as we face this crisis, we must be guided by what is right – not what is easy, comfortable or expedient.”

Because he is the plaintiff, the temporary restraining order technically only applies to Bailey himself, though cities and counties may take action contradicting Pritzker’s order as a result of the ruling. Pritzker said the state will appeal the decision immediately.

The judge’s ruling comes following the release of an April 21 memorandum written by a state legal official that expressed doubts about the scope of the governor’s power. “My research leaves me less than confident that a reviewing court will hold that the Governor has the authority close businesses, bar attendance at church services and assemblies in excess of ten citizens (particularly if they are assembling to redress grievances),” the memo read.

“From a strict enforcement standpoint, although well-intentioned on an emergency basis, the [executive order] is very broad and does not appear to meet strict scrutiny – this is not to mention the [executive order] appears to be beyond the framework of the specific Act it cites as support.”

With the status of Pritzker’s emergency powers now in litigation, the General Assembly should come up with a COVID-19 response plan of its own. The General Assembly has a role to play in this public health emergency, whether that means explicitly authorizing Pritzker’s extension of emergency powers into law, enacting long-term healthcare and economic reforms, or passing additional measures in response to their constituents’ needs.

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