The Michigan State Supreme Court ruled on Monday that an Oct. 2 decision striking down Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency orders is effective immediately.
The court decided in a 6-1 ruling to deny Whitmer’s request to allow her orders to stay in place until Oct. 30. The administration argued that it needed the extra time to come up with contingency plans and to work with the legislature. The majority decision ruled that the court did not have the authority to grant the request.
“Executive orders issued under that act are of no continuing legal effect,” the court said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “This order is effective upon entry.”
Michigan Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, a Republican, celebrated the ruling in a message posted on Twitter.
“Another big win at the Supreme Court today!” Chatfield said. “The law is the law, and partisan politics can’t change that. The people will finally have their voices heard in this process. The House is in again tomorrow, and I hope the Governor is ready to cooperate. It’s time to work together!”
Another big win at the Supreme Court today! The law is the law, and partisan politics can’t change that. The people will finally have their voices heard in this process. The House is in again tomorrow, and I hope the Governor is ready to cooperate. It’s time to work together!
— Lee Chatfield (@LeeChatfield) October 12, 2020
The court also issued another decision in a 4-3 ruling that Whitmer did not have the authority to extend emergency orders past April 30, when her first emergency declaration timed out, without support of the legislature. The ruling underscored the court’s earlier decision on Oct. 2 striking down Whitmer’s lockdown rules.
After the Oct. 2 decision, Whitmer put in place new regulations on masking, crowd sizes, and other measures that lined up with her emergency orders but were enacted under different legal authority. Her office cited authority given to the governor during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. While the orders remain in place for the moment, they may face additional legal challenges.
Other parts of Whitmer’s emergency order, such as extended unemployment benefits, are now scrapped unless the governor can work with the Republican-controlled state legislature to put new benefits in place. The legislature passed such a fix last week and tied it with another bill that increased legal protection for businesses facing lawsuits over the pandemic. Whitmer, unable to sign one without signing the other, rejected both saying that businesses had enough protection.
On Oct. 2, the state Supreme Court ruled that the governor did not have authority under either the 1976 Emergency Management Act (EMA) and the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act (EPGA) to extend an emergency order indefinitely without the support of the legislature.
“We conclude that the Governor lacked the authority to declare a ‘state of emergency’ or a ‘state of disaster’ under the EMA after April 30, 2020, on the basis of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the court ruled. “Furthermore, we conclude that the EPGA is in violation of the Constitution of our state because it purports to delegate to the executive branch the legislative powers of state government – including its plenary police powers – and to allow the exercise of such powers indefinitely. As a consequence, the EPGA cannot continue to provide a basis for the Governor to exercise emergency powers.”
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