Judge strikes down Pritzker’s COVID-19 orders, extended emergency powers

Judge strikes down Pritzker’s COVID-19 orders, extended emergency powers

Clay County Judge Michael McHaney said Pritzker’s emergency powers stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak lapsed on April 8, and any executive orders relating to COVID-19 finding their authority under those emergency powers are void.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker can no longer govern the state via special emergency powers, according to an Illinois circuit court judge.

On July 2, Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney granted two of three counts of the motion for summary judgment made by State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, against Pritzker’s exercise of emergency powers.

Bailey’s lawsuit alleged Pritzker overstepped his authority in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, partially because of the 30-day limit placed on his emergency powers by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, or IEMAA. Pritzker has claimed to extend his emergency powers by issuing new disaster proclamations each time the previous proclamation would lapse.

McHaney ruled Pritzker’s first emergency proclamation lapsed after 30 days and that any executive orders in effect after April 8, 2020, which “[found] their authority” under the emergency powers of the IEMAA are void.

McHaney further ruled that none of the provisions cited in Pritzker’s stay at home order gave the governor the authority to restrict a citizen’s movement or activities or to forcibly close businesses. That authority lies with the Illinois Department of Public Health, according to the order.

The judge also granted Bailey’s request that the lawsuit apply to all citizens of Illinois.

Tom DeVore, Bailey’s attorney, claimed this ruling means there are currently no restrictions by the governor, and that the response to the pandemic now rests with local county health departments. DeVore said he believed the opportunity for the governor to have the ruling stayed before then had been foreclosed under Supreme Court Rule 305, and so the ruling stands until a reviewing court renders a judgment, most likely in several months.

Pritzker is expected to appeal the decision.

In a statement to the Chicago Tribune, Pritzker spokesperson Emily Bittner responded that other courts have sided with the governor on the exercise of his emergency powers.

“Every other court – both state and federal – that has considered these exact issues has agreed with the administration that executive orders protecting Illinoisans’ health and safety are well within the governor’s constitutional authority,” Bittner said.

However, a 2001 informal opinion drafted by Senior Assistant Attorney General Michael Luke concluded that an Illinois governor’s extension of the 30-day limit on emergency powers after a disaster declaration “would render the limitation clause meaningless.”

The memo by the chief of the Illinois Attorney General’s Opinions Bureau went on to suggest that the governor would need legislative approval to extend the 30-day period.

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