Emergency orders Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued under the Emergency Powers of Governor Act are struck down, effective immediately, the Michigan Supreme Court said Monday in a 4-3 order that added an exclamation mark to an Oct. 2 ruling.
But new emergency orders that the Whitmer administration has issued through the state health department director — which replicate mask requirements, restrictions on gathering sizes and restaurant capacity, among other features — are not affected by the court’s ruling.
Monday’s Supreme Court ruling is in response to a lawsuit brought by the Michigan Legislature. The Oct. 2 ruling, which was a 4-3 decision striking down the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945, was in response to questions sent to the court by a federal judge handling a lawsuit brought by medical service providers in western Michigan.
In Monday’s ruling, which is another 4-3 ruling along partisan lines, the high court reversed a 2-1 decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals that said Whitmer could use the Emergency Powers of Governor Act to address the coronavirus pandemic.
“Executive orders issued under that act are of no continuing legal effect,” the court said. “This order is effective upon entry.”
House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, hailed the ruling.
“Another big win at the Supreme Court today!” Chatfield said on Twitter. “The law is the law, and partisan politics can’t change that. The people will finally have their voices heard in this process. The House is in again tomorrow, and I hope the Governor is ready to cooperate. It’s time to work together!”
In a 6-1 ruling, the court denied a request from Whitmer to stay the effect of the court’s Oct. 2 ruling until Oct. 30. Since that ruling arose from answers the court gave to a federal judge, rather than from a state court lawsuit, there was some legal question about when the ruling should take effect.
Robert Gordon, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a sweeping order Friday that largely mirrors statewide mandates previously levied by Whitmer in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The newly instituted order requires masks at any public gathering with two or more people — including sporting events and schools — for much of the state and maintains restrictions on the number of people who may enter stores or restaurants. Unlike under Whitmer’s orders, bars are now allowed to operate but they may only serve alcohol to people who are sitting down and 6 feet apart.
Those orders under the Public Health Code are not affected by the court rulings, though they also could face legal challenge.