A southern Illinois judge has cast more legal doubt on Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to extend the statewide stay-at-home order through the end of May.
On April 27, Clay County Judge Michael McHaney ruled against Pritzker, imposing a temporary restraining order on the governor’s further COVID-19 restrictions, at least as it applies to one downstate legislator, state Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia.)
The ruling drew a sharp reaction from Pritzker, who pledged to immediately appeal the decision and “have this ruling overturned.” He blasted Bailey and the ruling, calling it “dangerous” and asserting it places millions of Illinoisans at risk from COVID-19.
Bailey responded by, in turn, calling the governor’s actions “reckless” and “tyrannical.”
In a video posted to Facebook, he said the governor’s comments place “millions of deaths” on Bailey’s shoulders. Such “reckless” language, he said, “exposes the very motives” of the governor in continuing to keep the stay at home order in place.
Bailey further asserted it is Pritzker who is not following the pandemic response plan created and maintained by the Illinois Department of Public Health. He pointed to the document, known as the Illinois Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan, which was published in 2014. In that document, he specifically referenced language in the plan which cautions against the use of regional or geographic quarantine.
The document says: “Quarantine (a period of isolation to prevent disease spread) is not effective in controlling multiple influenza outbreaks in large, immunologically naïve populations, because the disease spreads too rapidly to identify and to control chains of transmission. Even if quarantine were somewhat effective in controlling influenza in large populations, it would not be feasible to implement and enforce with available resources, and would damage the economy by reducing the workforce. Most people will voluntarily quarantine themselves in their home.”
Ordinarily, rulings would be appealed first to a state district appeals court. Clay County is located in the state’s Fifth Appellate District, which is based in Mt. Vernon.
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However, appeals can also be taken up immediately by the Illinois state Supreme Court, which is dominated by Democrats.
The lawsuit was filed by State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia. He is represented by attorneys Thomas DeVore and Erik Hyam, of Greenville.
In the lawsuit, Bailey argued Gov. Pritzker exceeded his authority by extending his executive orders, and particularly his statewide stay-at-home order, through the end of May, to sustain the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In those orders, Pritzker asserted his emergency powers derived from the Illinois Emergency Management Act.
However, in his lawsuit, Bailey argued the IEMA law only permits the governor to exercise such broad emergency powers for a maximum of 30 days. Beyond that, Bailey asserted, the governor needs the approval of the Illinois General Assembly.
In his comments following the ruling, Bailey blasted his colleagues in the General Assembly, saying they should have convened and acted within the 30 days following the governor’s emergency declaration, to clarify what powers the governor was actually being given.
Instead, Bailey said, they “sat on their hands, and let this governor wreck and wreak havoc with our constitution.”
The General Assembly has not convened, nor indicated any intention to convene, since Pritzker declared a statewide emergency and began governing through a series of emergency executive orders.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan issued a rare public statement amid the pandemic, also condemning Bailey and the ruling, and asking appeals courts to overturn the ruling and allow Pritzker to continue to govern using emergency executive orders.
“Like Governor Pritzker, I find Representative Bailey’s lawsuit to be extremely reckless, at a time we can least afford it. The governor’s actions have consistently reflected an understanding that, as we face this crisis, we must be guided by what is right – not what is easy, comfortable or expedient. Clearly, we cannot say the same for all the leaders of our state,” Madigan said in a statement posted to the website of the Illinois House Democratic Caucus.
“It is my sincere hope that upon further review, this decision is reversed, and that our health care workers, first responders and loved ones are not unnecessarily subjected to added risk by such a short-sighted lawsuit.”
Pritzker has credited the stay-at-home order, imposed since mid-March, with helping Illinois combat the spread of COVID-19.
Under the judge’s order, the extension of the stay-at-home order and other emergency executive orders would be restrained beginning May 1, but only as it applies to Bailey. The current stay-at-home order, which is scheduled to expire April 30, would remain in place.
During proceedings, Judge McHaney questioned whether the governor has the authority to “shred the Constitution for 30 days,” according to quotes tweeted by reporter Mark Maxwell, of WCIA TV in Champaign.
In imposing the restraining order, the judge said he believed Bailey had a high likelihood of success on his claims the governor had exceeded his authority.
While the ruling only applies to Bailey directly, it creates a path for others to bring similar legal actions and to petition for similar relief. In his post-ruling statements, Bailey said he expects the ruling will soon apply to “everyone.”
According to a story published by The Center Square, DeVore, Bailey’s attorney, said he had received inquiries from others interested in potentially also filing suit against the governor.