In a unanimous decision, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-related powers under two state laws expired at the end of April 30, and she lacked the authority to extend her emergency orders beyond that point.
A federal judge, as part of a case brought by a group of Michigan healthcare practitioners and a patient seeking elective knee surgery, asked the Michigan high court to rule on two questions of state law interpretation that are pertinent to the federal action.
Regarding the first question, which prompted the unanimous agreement of the 7-justice court, the federal court wanted to know whether the state’s Emergency Management Act (EMA) allowed Gov. Whitmer to extend her own emergency powers past the statute’s own deadline. The justices ruled it did not.
On the second question presented to the state high court, the justices split. That issue posed whether the EMA or another state statute, called the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act (EPGA), violated the Michigan Constitution by unlawfully delegating legislative powers to the state’s governor. A majority of the justices ruled that it did.
As a consequence of the state court ruling, the Michigan Attorney General, Dana Nessel, has announced she will no longer enforce the governor’s COVID-related executive orders via criminal prosecution. Nessel did, however, request that people continue to abide by the COVID-related restrictions imposed by the governor.
In a statement on the AG’s website, her office said, “It’s [AG Nessel’s] fervent hope that people continue to abide by the measures that Governor Whitmer put in place – like wearing face masks, adhering to social distancing requirements and staying home when sick – since they’ve proven effective at saving lives. If it weren’t for the Governor’s actions, countless more of our friends, family and neighbors would have been lost to COVID-19. We can respect both the court’s decision and the advice of medical experts by continuing with these important measures voluntarily.”
It is not immediately clear what the federal court will do with the state court ruling. Gov. Whitmer has been criticized in the past over the scope of her COVID executive orders, which included, for example, a prohibition on Michigan residents traveling to their own vacation homes. Her orders prompted a massive protest at the state Capitol, and several law enforcement agencies announced they would not enforce some of the restrictions.
Photo from TNS/ABACA/REUTERS
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