The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Friday that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency declaration over the pandemic is unconstitutional.
The court ruled that Whitmer lacked authority under each of the two laws that govern states of emergency in Michigan to extend the state of emergency passed April 30, when her first state of emergency declaration expired, according to Mlive.com. Those two laws are the 1976 Emergency Management Act (EMA) and the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act (EPGA).
“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 in a 5-4 decision. “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.”
Whitmer called the ruling “deeply disappointing” and said that it’s putting Michigan at risk for a resurgence of the coronavirus after “I have done everything in my power to protect our seniors, small businesses, and first responders from the worst public health emergency in over a century.”
“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 in a statement. “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.”
She added that her lockdown orders remain in place for 21 more days after the ruling. After that, a number of unspecified actions will still remain in effect under different authority, she said.
“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,” the statement said.
The underlying lawsuit was brought in May by a group of Michigan medical providers and one patient seeking a knee surgery.
As The Daily Wire reported at the time:
The owners of Grand Health Partners, Wellston Medical Center, and Primary Health Services, and Jeffery Gulick filed the lawsuit against Whitmer, State Attorney General Dana Nessel, and state health director Robert Gordon on Tuesday. The plaintiffs are pushing the governor to lift her ban on “non-essential” treatments, warning that the ban is endangering the lives of many patients.
“This shutdown is risking lives and imperiling health,” Grand Health Partners president and surgeon Dr. Randal Baker told Up North Live. “The curve has been flattened. There will likely be spikes of cases in the future, but we can’t shut down non-COVID health care every time. We need to reassess the best practices to save the most lives, particularly where COVID-19 cases are low.”
Republicans in the Michigan legislature have filed their own separate lawsuit challenging Whitmer’s authority to call consecutive states of emergency over the pandemic.