As a part of her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” initiative, Gov. Whitmer issued over 160 executive orders. Several of these orders shut down various aspects of Michiganders’ daily lives. Hair salons, doctors offices and restaurants were just a few of the businesses to be affected by the lockdown. These closures affected life drastically, with some people having their livelihoods shut down and many suffering harm to their health and well-being.
It was for this reason that the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, in conjunction with the Miller Johnson law firm, took up three separate lawsuits challenging the governor’s executive orders.
The first lawsuit was on behalf of three medical practices unable to schedule necessary care and one patient unable to schedule necessary treatment due to the mandatory cancellation of so-called nonessential medical procedures. Some of these nonessential procedures included repairing a damaged feeding tube and treating heart attacks. In another case, a mandatory delay in performing gallbladder surgery resulted in gangrene.
“Not only has this shutdown harmed my employees and my practice, but it has put my patients directly at risk,” said Jordan Warnsholz, a physician assistant and owner of two of the represented medical practices. “These oppressive executive orders are meant to save lives, but instead, they are endangering many of them.”
On June 30, the Michigan Supreme Court announced that it will hear oral arguments in the case on Sept. 2. The case specifically challenges whether Gov. Whitmer violated the law by unilaterally extending a state of emergency. Michigan law requires the Legislature to approve such extensions, but the governor went ahead without getting its approval.
The second of the lawsuits was filed to challenge the governor’s strict workplace safety measures. Businesses that did not follow the governor’s orders while reopening faced a three-year felony and a fine of up to $70,000. In addition, if the state did not seek jail time for an offense, the standard of proof was lowered from “beyond a reasonable doubt,” making it much easier for businesses to be fined.
The governor’s workplace rules also took lawmaking power out of the hands of elected officials, like sheriffs and prosecutors, and gave it to unelected bureaucrats in state regulatory agencies.
“By making her own rules without backing from the Legislature, the governor is neglecting to give the people a voice,” said DJ VanderSlik, owner of DJ’s Landscape Management and one of the clients in this case. “We have the constitution for a reason.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, as well as VanderSlik’s company.
Early in June, the Michigan Court of Claims ruled in favor of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. The ruling stated that the heightened penalties found in Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders violate state law, and the governor does not have authority to issue more than a misdemeanor under either the Emergency Powers of Governor Act or the Emergency Management Act.
This was the first time a Michigan court declared one of Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders unconstitutional.
The most recent lawsuit filed by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation and Miller Johnson was on behalf of Sarah Huff, a salon owner in Holland, Michigan. Like all salon owners, she was ordered to shut down her business in March. As time went on and it became apparent that the order would not be lifted anytime soon, Huff decided, in May, to reopen by herself. Shortly afterwards, she participated in the Operation Haircut protest on the lawn of the Michigan Capitol.
Since then, Huff was charged with a misdemeanor for taking part in the protest. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has threatened to revoke her business license.