Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had the right to use emergency powers to extend the state’s lockdown measures in response to the ongoing CCP virus pandemic, the Michigan Court of Claims ruled on May 21, after Republican lawmakers challenged the move in a lawsuit.
Judge Cynthia Stephens of the Court of Claims declared Thursday that the governor did not require legislative approval to keep Michigan under a state of emergency until May 28. At the time, Whitmer cited a 1945 law and a 1976 statute to extend the state’s emergency declaration.
Stephens ruled that Whitmer had, within her executive authority, operated under “broad” powers to lengthen the stay-at-home order under the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governors Act (EPGA).
The judge said the EPGA is not limited to local and regional emergencies and sets no time limit on a state of emergency.
“It would take a particularly strained reading of the plain text of the [law] to conclude that a grant of authority to deal with a public crisis that affects all the people of this state would somehow be constrained to a certain locality,” Stephens said, The Associated Press reported.
The claims are “meritless,” the judge added.
The Michigan Court of Claims also ruled that Whitmer exceeded a 1976 statute she cited in extending that state’s emergency declaration in late April. The 1976 law, the Emergency Management Act, requires approval from the legislature to extend state of emergency after 28 days. However, Stephens said the 1945 law covers her state of emergency extension.
I will continue to do what I’ve always done: take careful, decisive actions to protect Michiganders from this unprecedented, global pandemic. We owe it to our front line heroes who have been putting their lives on the line to pull together as a state and work as one team. pic.twitter.com/LHLA39QNWe
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) May 21, 2020
“Today’s decision recognizes that the governor’s actions to save lives are lawful and her orders remain in place,” Whitmer’s office said in a statement. “She will continue to do what she’s always done: take careful, decisive actions to protect Michiganders from this unprecedented, global pandemic.”
Whitmer has meanwhile eased restrictions in the state as confirmed cases of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, and deaths begin to slow down.
The governor announced on May 18 that some restaurants, bars, and other retail businesses in much of northern Michigan will be allowed to begin reopening starting Friday, ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.
Whitmer said some businesses will be able to operate in a limited capacity in the upper peninsula and parts of the lower peninsula, while social gatherings of up to 10 people will also be permitted across the vast area.
Whitmer’s executive order (pdf) applies to two of the eight regions established as part of her “MI Safe Start” plan.
As part of the governor’s gradual reopening plan, bars and restaurants must keep groups at least 6 feet apart and operate at 50 percent capacity, while employees will be required to wear masks and be trained in “workplace infection-control practices,” including the use of personal protective equipment, Whitmer said.
Food and drink establishments in the region had previously been confined to pickup and delivery to curb the transmission of the CCP virus.
Whitmer’s stay-at-home order—one of the strictest in the nation—still keeps bars and restaurants off limits to dine-in customers in 51 counties with 93 percent of the state’s 10 million people. Other places of public accommodation such as movie theaters, gyms, and hair salons remain closed statewide, at least through until May 28.
Employees will be able to return to their offices if work cannot be done remotely.