LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Court of Claims has ruled Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has the authority to keep the state under a state of emergency without legislative approval.
Republican legislators sued Whitmer after she extended the state of emergency and stay-at-home orders without their approval.
“Today’s decision recognizes that the governor’s actions to save lives are lawful and her orders remain in place," Whitmer’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. 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 to stop the spread of this virus.”
Republicans have been critical of Whitmer’s reluctance to reopen the state as coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to drop. They took her to court, arguing she shouldn’t be able to bypass legislators and extend her executive orders.
The two sides traded jabs last week during a virtual call with Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens.
In the end, the court sided with Whitmer, saying challenges to her authority to issue executive orders are meritless.
“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," Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said. “We are confident in our position and will appeal this ruling.”
Whitmer has slowly started to reopen parts of the state. On Monday, she announced restaurants and bars would open at half capacity in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula by Friday. Retail and office jobs that can’t be performed remotely are also being resumed.
On Thursday, Whitmer announced a statewide partial reopening of businesses, as well as the resumption of nonessential medical procedures. Residents are now allowed to gather in groups of up to 10 people.
Here is the official language in the conclusion of the opinion and order:
“It is hereby ordered that the relief requested in plaintiffs’ motion for immediate declaratory judgment is denied. While the governor’s action of redeclaring the same emergency violated the provisions of the EMA, plaintiffs’ challenges to the EPGA and the governor’s authority to issue executive orders thereunder are meritless.
"This order resolves the last pending claim and closes the case.”