Lawsuit Against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Fails as Stay-At-Home Order Did Not Infringe Rights, Court Finds
The Michigan Court of Claims has said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order does not infringe on the constitutional rights of residents.
The lawsuit, brought by plaintiff Steve Martinko and others, claimed that Whitmer's initial "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order, as well as the recently adjusted version of the order, violated the rights of Michigan residents.
The orders were introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan, where there are 40,399 confirmed cases and the death toll has reached 3,670, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
The plaintiffs in the case claimed that the "mandatory quarantine," along with interstate travel restrictions listed in an earlier version of the order, violated their rights to both procedural due process and substantive due process.
"But those liberty interests are, and always have been, subject to society's interests—society being our fellow residents," said Court of Claims Judge Christopher M. Murray.
"They—our fellow residents—have an interest to remain unharmed by a highly communicable and deadly virus, and since the state entered the Union in 1837, it has had the broad power to act for the public health of the entire state when faced with a public crisis."
Murray stated that issuing injunctive relief "would not serve the public interest, despite the temporary harm to plaintiffs' constitutional rights."
The plaintiffs also alleged that the Emergency Management Act is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the Governor.
But the Court noted the act does not provide the Governor with "uncontrolled, arbitrary power." Instead, Judge Murray indicated that the act provides for very specific procedures and criteria for the Governor to declare a state of disaster or emergency, and what conditions qualify as a disaster or emergency.
Attorney General Dana Nessel announced: "I am pleased with the court's decision. This pandemic has already taken more than 3,600 lives in Michigan and many more around the world. The primary goal of the 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' order has always been to protect human life."
Last week, Whitmer announced an extension of the state's stay-at-home order through May 15.
Whitmer described the extension—which includes the lifting of some personal and economic restrictions—as a "step forward" for the state. Discussions to lift additional restrictions would depend upon the number of cases continuing to decrease statewide and the state's ability to boost its testing and contact tracing efforts, Whitmer said.
"We've got to do everything we can to avoid a second wave of COVID-19 spread," Whitmer said during a news briefing. "As hard as this moment is for us right now, as isolated as we feel and as stressed as we are about getting back to work, reopening our businesses, we know that if we do it too fast, a second wave is likely and would be even more devastating than the moment we are in."
Newsweek has contacted Whitmer for comment.