Michigan Judge Gives Whitmer A Win In GOP-Majority Legislature’s Lawsuit

DETROIT, MI-JUNE 14: Michigan Democrat Gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer addresses the 37th United Auto Workers Constitutional Convention June14, 2018 at Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
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May 21, 2020 5:10 p.m.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) emergency declaration and accompanying stay-at-home orders were legal, a big initial win in a case that may end up at the state Supreme Court.

“The Court concludes that plaintiffs’ challenges to the Governor’s authority to declare a state of emergency under the EPGA and to issue Executive Orders in response to a statewide emergency situation under the EPGA are meritless,” Stephens wrote.

She added, in a concession to the legislature, that the governor had violated one of the state’s emergency laws, the Emergency Management Act of 1976, with her successive declarations based on the same, ongoing emergency. But, the other emergency law, called the Emergency Power of the Governors Act of 1945, granted her sufficient authority so that it didn’t matter.

Whitmer’s lawyers had made a similar argument in initial filings — that even if she hadn’t fulfilled the qualifications of the newer law, which includes mandated authorization from the legislature, she was covered by the older one. They called it a “belt and suspenders” situation — “even if the belt is removed, the suspenders remain.”

Per Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, the legislature will appeal the decision.

“While we are disappointed by aspects of this determination, we are vindicated in our assertion that the Governor acted unlawfully in attempting to extend the states of emergency and disaster under the Emergency Management Act without legislative approval,” he said in a statement. “We are confident in our position and will appeal this ruling.”

The legislature’s move is unsurprising. Stephens herself during last week’s oral arguments suggested that the case will likely ultimately end up before her “big bosses” at the state Supreme Court.

The Republican-controlled legislature sued Whitmer at the end of April after they let her old emergency declaration expire without extending it. When she declared a new one via executive order, and a stay-at-home order to accompany it, they accused her of executive overreach and filed the suit.

Read Stephens’ order here:

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