A Michigan court on Wednesday refused to block Gov. Gretchen Whitmers stay-at-home order, ruling that the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs were not infringed but only subjected to “temporary harm” by measures meant to protect the public amid the pandemic.
Five businesses filed a lawsuit (pdf) against Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, accusing them of violating constitutional rights by lockdown measures imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
The Michigan Court of Claims rejected the allegations, ruling that an injunction against Whitmers order “would not serve the public interest, despite the temporary harm to plaintiffs constitutional rights.”
Court of Claims judge Christopher M. Murray, who was appointed by former Gov. John Engler, stated in an 18-page opinion that constitutional rights are fundamental but not absolute, and under extraordinary circumstances, they may be restricted.
“But those liberty interests are, and always have been, subject to societys interests—society being our fellow residents. They—our fellow residents—have an interest to remain unharmed by a highly communicable and deadly virus, and since the state entered the Union in 1837, it has had the broad power to act for the public health of the entire state when faced with a public crisis,” the judge wrote.
“Although the Court is painfully aware of the difficulties of living under the restrictions of these executive orders, those difficulties are temporary, while to those who contract the virus and cannot recover (and to their family members and friends), it is all too permanent,” he wrote.
“I am pleased with the courts decision,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “This pandemic has already taken more than 3,600 lives in Michigan and many more around the world. The primary goal of the Stay Home, Stay Safe order has always been to protect human life.”
The lawsuit alleged that Whitmers “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, recently extended through May 15 though in an amended form that loosened some restrictions, was based on unproven assumptions about how deadly the CCP virus really is.
Also, they argued that by suspending the Freedom of Information Act through June 4, Whitmer stymied efforts at assessing whether the models that predict COVID-19 case and death counts in the state of Michigan are sound.
The plaintiffs also alleged that the Emergency Management Act was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the governor. This the judge rejected, claiming the act does not confer “uncontrolled, arbitrary power” to the governor but that it provides highly specific criteria for declaring a disaster or emergency.
The plaintiffs—which included a residential brokerage, an executive property maintenance company, and an exporter of architectural and automotive glass—were seeking “a declaratory and injunctive relief,” meaning a judicial statement and corresponding action blocking the stay-at-home order.
“Such a declaration, and a corresponding injunction, will yield a more rational, pragmatic response to the virus that saves lives, saves livelihoods, and preserves constitutional norms all at the same time,” the complaint stated.