Michigan Drops Lawsuit Against Barber Who Flouted Whitmer’s COVID-19 Lockdown

June 23, 2020 Updated: June 23, 2020

Michigan state has agreed to dismiss the lawsuit against a barbershop owner who had his license suspended after he cut hair during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “non-essential” business shutdown.

The Department of the Attorney General agreed to a full and final dismissal of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’s lawsuit against 77-year-old Karl Manke, his attorney David A. Kallman said in a news release.

Manke previously had both his license and that of his business “summarily suspended,” before a judge ruled late last month that the state health department had failed to show that his shop—Karl Manke Main Street, Barber & Beauty Shop—in Owosso, a small town between Lansing and Flint, “has the potential to spread COVID-19 around the state.”

“I am glad the state has finally realized I am not a health threat to anyone and that I have a right to continue to cut hair,” Manke said in a statement issued by Kallman, reported MLive. “The courts have consistently upheld my constitutional rights affirming that the governor’s attempts to shut me down were out of line.”

Manke reopened his shop on May 4 despite Whitmer’s statewide “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order for “non-essential” businesses like his to remain closed. Whitmer has said barber shops and hair salons are risky places because of the contagious virus.

“Listen, I’ve been in this business for 59 years. She wants to come cut my hands off, that’s another story,” Manke told The Associated Press in an interview, referring to Whitmer.

Manke joined other barbers and hairdressers to cut hair for free during an anti-lockdown protest at the Capitol on May 20. He told Fox News at the time that he would not “stand down.”

Shiawassee County Judge Matthew Stewart in his opinion last month said that the Michigan Attorney General’s Office did not provide reasons why Manke’s shop posed a threat to public health.

“(The attorney general) has not presented any studies underlying the doctor’s conclusion. (The attorney general) has not shown any nexus between the cutting of hair and an increased risk of transmission,” Stewart wrote. “(The attorney general’s) filings rest more on general facts about COVID-19 than specific practices or conditions at (Manke’s) business.”

Epoch Times Photo
Barber Karl Manke cuts a client’s hair at his barber shop in Owosso, Mich., on May 12, 2020. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images)

In a video conference on the Whitmer administration’s request for an injunction to close Manke’s shop, Stewart said an affidavit from the state’s chief medical executive and photos weren’t sufficient to prove that Manke contributed to the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

Manke’s license was reinstated last week when barbershops, salons, tattoo parlors, and massage parlors were authorized to reopen statewide.

Manke still faces misdemeanor criminal charges filed by the Shiawassee County Prosecutor’s Office, his attorney said, adding that the 77-year-old will, during a July 15 hearing, contest a still-pending formal complaint filed against him by the state.