Mich. Republicans Lose Court Challenge To Whitmer's Emergency Authority

WWJ News
May 21, 2020 - 5:26 pm

(WWJ) A judge has ruled in favor of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a lawsuit brought by Republican legislative leaders that challenged her authority. 

A Court of Claims judge on Thursday said a 1945 law cited by Whitmer is not limited to local and regional emergencies only. 

The suit came after the House and Senate, which are controlled by Republicans, did not extend Whitmer's COVID-19 disaster emergency declaration in late April, but she acted anyway.

But the judge wrote in a 25-page opinion that the Emergency Management Act does not, in fact, prohibit the governor from declaring multiple emergencies.

"In one corner we have the governor, in the other corner Mike Shirkey, the Senate Republican Leader and House Speaker Lee Chatfield just absolutely convinced that the governor had violated the state constitution." WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reported. "Well, the judge, standing in the middle, is now in the governor's corner. She said, yeah, wasn't anything wrong here."

When filing the suit, early this month, Chatfield said Republican lawmakers had attempted to partner with the governor in virus crisis decision making, but she rejected them. "We offered cooperation, but instead she chose court. This was avoidable, but today we filed a lawsuit in our state to challenge her unconstitutional actions. The law in Michigan is clear, and nobody is above it," Chatfield said. 

"All we wanted, and all we've ever asked for is an opportunity to participate and understand how decisions are being made, and we have been left out of that," Shirkey added. "The legislators have been left out of that, and therefore the people of Michigan have been left out of that."

Whitmer has called the lawsuit "meritless," saying state law allows her to make the moves she must in order to protect Michiganders during times of crisis, including amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Her office on Thursday issued the following statement: "Today’s decision recognizes that the Governor’s actions to save lives are lawful and her orders remain in place. She will continue to do what she’s 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 to stop the spread of this virus." 

An appeal is expected.

"The governor wins this battle, but the war continues," Skubick said. "Republican leaders will now leave this corner, and go to another court; likely the state Supreme Court. How will they rule there? Stay tuned."