Michigan Court of Appeals rules Gov. Whitmer has authority to use emergency pandemic powers

Panel rules 2-1 for Whitmer in Republican-led lawsuit

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at her Aug. 5, 2020, coronavirus (COVID-19) briefing. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a Republican-led lawsuit challenging her authority during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Michigan Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 for Whitmer in the lawsuit, which challenged her emergency authority in the state’s handling of the pandemic.

“We hold that the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, her extension of the state of emergency and her issuance of related executive orders fell within the scope of the governor’s authority under the EPGA,” the opinion read.

Michigan first activated its state emergency operations center in late February, and Whitmer has extended the state of emergency several times throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is currently set to continue through Sept. 4, though Whitmer has said it will likely be extended for as long as the coronavirus is prevalent in the state.

Tensions between Whitmer and the GOP-led state legislature began in late April, when Whitmer requested a 28-day extension of her emergency powers. Legislators refused, so Whitmer extended the state of emergency on her own, prompting a lawsuit.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Whitmer has scored a number of victories against the legislators, including during a virtual court hearing and a May ruling from the Court of Claims.

Friday’s ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals is the latest win for Whitmer in the case. The ruling is likely to be sent to the Michigan Supreme Court for an appeal.

“We find it more than a bit disconcerting that the very governmental body that delegated authority to governors to confront public emergencies -- and holds and has held the exclusive power to change it -- steps forward 75 years later to now assert that it has unconstitutionally delegated unconstrained authority,” the opinion reads.

“The Court of Appeals ruled today that as long as it’s the opinion of a sitting governor that there’s an emergency, they can take over complete, unilateral control of the state for as long as he or she decides,” Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield tweeted. “No checks on power. No separation of power. This is unconstitutional.”

Here is a statement from Whitmer’s office:

Today, the Court of Appeals handed the governor a complete and decisive win in her efforts to protect the people of Michigan from this once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. This decision recognizes that the governor’s actions to save lives are lawful and her orders remain in place. As the court concluded, “The governor’s declaration of a statement of emergency, her extensions of the state of emergency, and her issuance of related executive orders clearly fell within the scope of the governor’s authority under the EPGA.” She will continue to do what she’s always done: take deliberate, measured actions to protect Michiganders from this unprecedented threat. This lawsuit is a dangerous and costly attempt to take away the governor’s power to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and save lives. We owe it to our frontline 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.”

More coverage

Here’s much more recent coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitmer’s handling of pandemic:

Reopening Michigan:

Health questions, advice:




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About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.