Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Sued Again Over State's 'Unprecedented' Stay-At-Home Order

A lawsuit has been filed against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, accusing her of violating constitutional rights in an executive order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Law firm Butzel Long filed the suit on behalf of five local businesses, suggesting Whitmer's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order, which is due to end on May 15, was based on "speculative modeling" on the infectiousness and lethality of COVID-19.

"Governor Whitmer has issued executive orders that have shuttered civil society, placed 10 million people under house arrest, and taken jobs away from nearly 1.2 million people, all without due process of law," the lawsuit states.

"The Governor has not disclosed the data or methodology used to create the modeling that purportedly justifies this extreme action."

Among the businesses named in the suit are Sotheby's International Realty, a Michigan-based residential brokerage; Executive Property Maintenance (EPM), which provides commercial, municipal and residential clients with lawn, snow and ice maintenance and other landscaping services; and Intraco Corporation, which exports architectural and automotive glass, automotive chemicals and other goods.

The other two businesses are Casite Intraco, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Intraco that exports engine oil and car products, and Hillsdale Jewelers, a fully closed business that has seen all three of its workers become unemployed as a result of Whitmer's order.

The suit accuses Whitmer of preventing assessments on whether it is justifiable to lock down the entire state to help prevent further spread of the outbreak by suspending the Freedom of Information Act through to June 4.

The plaintiffs also hope to "define the limits" of state police power by bringing forward the suit.

"Whatever its limits, this legal term of art is not some shibboleth that unlocks absolute executive power and casts our Constitution to the wind. The issues raised in this Complaint are novel, and they will not be rendered moot if the executive order is lifted before the Court issues judgment," the statement reads.

"The issues presented are capable of repetition and are of such importance that they cannot evade judicial review."

The suit adds: "Governor Whitmer's executive orders are unprecedented. For the first time in our State's history—indeed, in our nation's history—the State government is mass quarantining healthy people instead of the sick.

"As a free people, we have the unalienable right to pursue happiness, which includes the freedom to make our own choices about our safety and welfare without unconstitutional interference. In the face of the coronavirus, it means the freedom to choose whether to stay at home, or to keep calm and carry on with the things that make life worth living."

The suit is demanding a trial by jury. Robert Gordon, Michigan's director of the Department of Health and Human Services, is also named in the suit.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at the General Motors Detroit- Hamtramck assembly plant on January 27, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty

A similar lawsuit accusing Whitmer of infringing individuals' constitutional rights was also filed against the governor earlier this month on behalf of four Michigan residents.

The plaintiffs were seeking damages, as well as demanding the restrictions in the state be lifted or amended.

"My clients are not saying that there is not a pandemic or that the government does not have some obligation to do something in response," Attorney David Helm, who filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, told Newsweek.

"My clients are further not looking to cash-in on the crisis as some have alleged. They simply want to see the Governor's restrictions lifted.

"Our position is simply that when the government takes some necessary action which infringes on individual constitutional rights, they must tread lightly and take the least restrictive approach."

Whitmer's office has been contacted for comment.

There are more than 37,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, with at least 3,400 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University. In total, 115,936 people have managed to recover from the virus across the U.S.

This infographic, provided by Statista, shows the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of April 28.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.