A Michigan Court of Claims judge has ruled in the favor of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying that she had the authority to extend Michigan’s state of emergency order.
Judge Cynthia Stephens said that while Whitmer had the authority to extend the order under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945, she did overstep by trying to extend it under the Emergency Management Act of 1976, which requires legislative authority, according to reporting by The Detroit News.
Stephens’ ruling overrides the argument from the Republican-led legislature that Whitmer could only extend the lockdown with its approval, the outlet said.
“Today’s decision recognizes that the Governor’s actions to save lives are lawful and her orders remain in place,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “She will continue to do what she’s always done: take careful, decisive actions to protect Michiganders from this unprecedented, global pandemic.”
I will continue to do what I’ve always done: take careful, decisive actions to protect Michiganders from this unprecedented, global pandemic. We owe it to our front line heroes who have been putting their lives on the line to pull together as a state and work as one team. pic.twitter.com/LHLA39QNWe
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) May 21, 2020
The legislature originally filed its lawsuit on May 6. Whitmer extended Michigan’s state of emergency at the end of April and extended the stay-at-home order through May 28 the following week.
Republicans argued that the 1945 emergency powers law only covers local emergencies, according to CBS News. Stephens rejected that argument.
“It is apparent the EPGA employs broad terminology that empowers the Governor to act for the best interests of all the citizens of this state, not just the citizens of a particular county or region,” Stephens wrote.
That means Whitmer is able to cite the 1945 law in order to extend state of emergency orders.
“We’re still reviewing the opinion but I’m pleased that the Court acted quickly to clarify legal issues of significant importance to the people of this State,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in a statement. “With this clarity, it’s my hope that our public officials and residents can move forward with confidence that the Governor has acted in accordance with the authority provided to her under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act. It’s time for us all to focus on the health and safety of the People in this State rather than fighting against each other in unnecessary legal battles in our courts.”
Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield (R-107-Levering) said he plans to fight the ruling.
Although it kept the governor’s emergency orders in place, the Court of Claims agreed with the Legislature that the Governor broke the law in unilaterally declaring a state of emergency without legislative consent. I’ll continue fighting for the rule of law as we appeal.
— Lee Chatfield (@LeeChatfield) May 21, 2020
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]