It turns out that the Michigan governor cannot deny citizens the right to hang out with their neighbors.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer infamously imposed lockdown orders during the pandemic that included barring neighbors from visiting one another and consumers from buying seeds in local stores. She was mocked on social media for the extent of the lockdowns, and many Michiganders protested at the state’s capitol.
On Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lacks the authority to extend or declare states of emergency in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whitmer cited two state laws — the Emergency Management Act of 1976 and the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act from 1945 — as granting her the authority to continue the emergency orders issued by the state legislature past April 30.
The state’s highest court doesn’t think so. In its opinion, the court wrote:
“We conclude that the Governor lacked the authority to declare a ‘state of emergency’ or a ‘state of disaster’ under the EMA after April 30, 2020, on the basis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, we conclude that the EPGA is in violation of the Constitution of our state because it purports to delegate to the executive branch the legislative powers of state government– including its plenary police powers– and to allow the exercise of such powers indefinitely.”
In other words, those powers remain with the legislature.
Whitmer disagreed with the ruling, but there is nowhere else to turn. Because it is state law, the Michigan Supreme Court is the last ruling available.
“With this decision, Michigan will become the sole outlier at a time when the Upper Peninsula is experiencing rates of COVID infection not seen in our state since April.”
The governor plans to stand behind her decisions, claiming the court’s ruling won’t take effect for 21 days, and that many of the state’s pandemic measures fall outside of the court’s opinion. That might be the case, but the state’s attorney general has stated that he won’t enforce the governor’s shut down orders because they are at odds with the court.