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The Michigan Supreme Court issued a ruling on Friday that Governor Gretchen Whitmer's emergency orders regarding COVID-19 safety were not legal, noting that the governor had illegally drawn authority from a 1945 law that does not apply, according to Fox 2 Detroit.
"That means burn your masks right now if you didn't already. Open your gym, and movie theatre and open whatever business you have. Go on and frequent whatever business you would like to go to, if you have a church that's limited your services because of how you're reading the EOs, forget that. All of those executive orders, based on COVID-19 circumstances, from 2020, they're out, they're gone, they're done," Michigan attorney Katherine Henry said.
Henry has consistently pushed back against the governor's orders in court for the past six months, saying that Whitmer does not have grounds to continue extending her state of emergency every 28 days.
"The Governor does not possess the authority to exercise emergency powers under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 (the EPGA), MCL 10.31 et seq., because that act is an unlawful delegation of legislative power to the executive branch in violation of the Michigan Constitution. Accordingly, the executive orders issued by the Governor in response to the COVID-19 pandemic now lack any basis under Michigan law."
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled two different ways on Friday, with one vote being a unanimous 7-0 opinion, and a second being a narrow 4-3 opinion.
"Specifically, they said she has no authority, on a 7-0 opinion, no authority to issue these executive orders, according to the emergency management act of 1976. That was the first part and that was the part that was unanimous. That she has zero authority to do this," Henry said.
Whitmer issued a press release shortly after the verdict, saying that the ruling was a narrow 4-3 vote. Henry then explained that the Supreme Court answered two questions.
"The second question was whether the Emergency Powers of Governor act violated the state constitution, namely, separation of powers clause - article 3 section 2," she said. "What the court said in a 4-3 opinion, in that regard, was that yes, the emergency power of governor act of 1945 is entirely unconstitutional. The governor has no way to rely on that to act on our behalf."
This means that the Republican-controlled Michigan House and Senate will now have a say in COVID-19 matters within the state.
Henry noted that the governor and her office overstepped their bounds according to state laws when they extended emergency orders.
"The governor has had some very creative reading skills when it comes to our state laws in Michigan and the constitution. (The) 7-0 (ruling) specifically said that the legislature has to be involved after 28 days, according to the 1976 emergency management act. They did give that first extension on April 7th (when) they voted to give her another 23 days, After April 30th, the only way they could continue is if the legislature voted to extend the state of emergency yet again. Which they did not. So the court, in a 7-0 decision said, very clearly, the governor had to get the approval of the legislature to go beyond that initial 28 days," Henry said.
Whitmer mentioned the new order will not go into effect for at least another three weeks, saying: "It is important to note that this ruling does not take effect for at least 21 days, and until then, my emergency declaration and orders retain the force of law."
"Furthermore, after 21 days, many of the responsive measures I have put in place to control the spread of the virus will continue under alternative sources of authority that were not at issue in today’s ruling," the governor added.
Henry shot back by saying that what Whitmer said was not true, adding the new ruling meant that Michiganders can ignore "all mask mandates, social distancing, and more, effective on Friday at 4:35 p.m.
Henry continued by saying the governor could not appeal to a higher court, because the only court higher than the state Supreme Court is the U.S. Supreme Court, which does not have jurisdiction over state laws or a state's constitution.
"Our United States Supreme Court doesn't have jurisdiction to hear those kinds of cases. They can only answer issues about if our state law or our state constitution violated the federal law or federal constitution. So the highest court in the land that can answer these questions, has spoken. The decision has been rendered. It's there as of Friday at 4:35. So she can try and whine and complain all she wants, she's not going to get anywhere," Henry said.
Whitmer has been at loggerheads with many residents in her state, which has sparked protests over her alleged overreach at the beginning of the pandemic. The Michigan governor went so far as to say, in April, that she would not "sign any bill that takes authority away from me."
This, along with her draconian measures, sparked outrage from anti-lockdown protesters at the beginning of May, who took to the state Capitol building fully armed to let the governor know that she was proceeding with protocols they did not support.
It was just two weeks later, with the anti-lockdown protests raging on, that Whitmer subverted the protests by saying: "I do think that the fact of the matter is these protests, in a perverse way, make it likelier that we're going to have to stay in a stay-at-home posture."