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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is facing a lawsuit from a Republican congressman who believes her emergency orders in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic are a violation of his constitutional rights.
U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell filed the lawsuit against the Democratic governor on Monday in United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, contending that the “unreasonable” orders violate the separation of powers and Michigan residents had their own rights infringed upon.
“I think we need to clarify the extent of what an emergency is and the extent of those powers and re-enforce that people have constitutional rights,” Mitchell said, according to The Detroit News.
The lawmaker, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 2016, said Whitmer’s orders prevented him from visiting his own family within the state and getting medical treatment for a condition with his knee.
“No Michigander, including Mitchell, should be forced to choose between risking criminal prosecution and economic sanctions under the Lockdown Orders on the one hand or seeking medical treatment on the other,” the court filings read.
Stay-at-home orders and other restrictions, such as those on non-essential medical and dental procedures, were enacted by Whitmer in March in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Precluding people from traveling across the state to visit their grandchildren for their birthday, really?” Mitchell said. “We’ve gone over the edge on some of this.”
On Sunday, Whitmer said Michigan was facing a public health crisis as the state reported over 43,000 confirmed cases of the virus., though the number of new cases being reported was beginning to decline, according to The Detroit News.
“Whether you agree with me or not, I’m working to protect your life if you live in the state of Michigan,” the governor said.
“While a regional epidemic likely exists in a few densely populated areas, one does not exist in all 83 counties in Michigan, as demonstrated by persistently low numbers of infections and deaths in the majority of Michigan’s counties,” Mitchell’s lawsuit contends.
The GOP congressman, who isn’t seeking re-election this year, accused the governor of using the emergency powers granted to her in an effort to usurp the authority of the legislature.
“That wasn’t the intent of the Emergency Powers Act,” Mitchell said. “And that kind of power is unconstitutional.”
According to The Detroit News:
Mitchell’s suit names Whitmer and Robert Gordon, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services. It argues that the governor’s emergency orders have violated the separation of powers among the legislative and executive branches and his rights to association, intrastate travel and engaging in commerce.
The suit also labels the statewide restrictions “unreasonable” for areas of Michigan where there are few cases. The filing describes Whitmer’s measures as “lockdown orders,” which Mitchell says “shock the conscience” and interfere with “deeply-rooted liberty and property rights.”
“Indeed, the governor has described her emergency powers as a ‘dial’ that can be turned up or down at will,” the lawsuit said. “Thus, the issues presented are capable of repetition and are of such importance that they cannot evade judicial review.”
The chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party, Lavora Barnes, called Mitchell’s lawsuit a “political stunt” in a statement.
The Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature is also weighing a lawsuit against the governor though Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey indicated that it would “probably” be coming next week.
Eight weeks after the first two coronavirus cases were identified in Michigan, Whitmer is still urging residents to stay home “to stay safe until at least May 15,” adding at a news briefing on Monday that she would ease restrictions “when public health experts and data say it’s safe.”
“If we open up too fast we will have to go through all this pain all over again,” Whitmer said.
Let me be clear: I will not be making decisions based on an arbitrary timeline or political pressure. I’m not here to play games. My number one priority is the health & safety of Michiganders, and I will continue to work tirelessly to protect both lives & livelihoods.
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) May 1, 2020
Whitmer signed an executive order last week that would extend through May 28 the temporary closing of places like bars, coffeehouses, theaters, museums and fitness centers as well as dine-in restaurants. The Democrat defended her decisions and criticized protests that broke out at the Capitol last week in response.
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