Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has threatened to use state resources to punish rogue businesses, communities, or just step back and let them be sued by politically allied trial lawyers, should any continue to resist his emergency orders.
As resistance to the orders of Gov. JB Pritzker mounts statewide, Illinois could be about to enter uncharted legal and political waters, and businesses could be caught in the middle, left to decide whether to follow their local governmental leaders or the governor through the COVID-19 pandemic, with many lives and livelihoods hanging in the balance.
“This is not a yes or no question,” said attorney Michael Ciesla, of suburban Northbrook. “We’re getting into areas we’ve never gotten into before.”
This week, Madison County, located in the St. Louis metro area in southwestern Illinois, became the first county to officially break with Pritzker. The board on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to defy Pritzker’s business shutdown orders and approve a plan to allow its businesses to reopen sooner than Pritzker would allow.
Illinois Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Maisch |
They were followed on May 13 by the Effingham County Board in southeastern Illinois.
It remains to be seen how many businesses in those counties will reopen, and even whether enough customers will return to make it worth the businesses’ bother. But business owners who do reopen could face a number of challenges amid the tricky economic and legal waters churned by the COVID-19 pandemic – including Pritzker’s response to the resistance.
On one hand, businesses who choose to remain closed may face economic oblivion. Many who are now closed will likely never reopen again, no matter what the state or their local governments do.
However, Pritzker has publicly warned businesses who reopen without his approval that the state’s Department of Professional Regulation would take action against businesses, to strip them of the licenses they are legally required to hold to conduct a range of businesses. The state licenses dozens of professions, including barbers, hair braiders and cosmetologists, acupuncturists, athletic trainers, engineers, architects, firearm trainers, interior designers, locksmiths, nail technicians, pawn brokers, financial counselors, loan originators, security contractors, and a host of medical and dental professions, among many others. That list doesn’t include state regulations on restaurants and alcohol sellers.
Pritzker said the actions will be needed to hold accountable those business owners who violate public health orders. In statements delivered May 13, Pritzker appealed again to “science,” saying that alone will inform his decision making on when to lift business and activity restrictions in Illinois. Without those restrictions, he said, COVID-19 will kill thousands more Illinoisans.
In addition to yanking business licenses of renegade shop owners, Pritzker has hinted he also would do nothing to stop trial lawyers – many of whom have politically backed him and donated voluminously to Pritzker’s fellow Illinois Democrats – from launching lawsuits against businesses who defy him.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has illegally destroyed and taken personal property, violating the constitutional rights of business owners, by ordering businesses throughout the state to remain closed as part of his efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, a new federal lawsuit asserts.
New federal lawsuit asserts Gov. JB Pritzker violated the U.S. and Illinois constitutions by requiring business owners to close, destroying their property without compensation
On Thursday, May 14, a group of plaintiffs from Chicago’s southwest suburbs, including a Will County board member and two business owners, filed suit in Chicago federal court against Pritzker.
“Despite issuing the COVID-19 Closure Orders for a readily-apparent public purpose, the Governor did not provide compensation for those who suffered substantial – and perhaps total – diminution of value in their property interest as a result,” the complaint said.
The complaint asks the court to order the state to pay “just compensation” to the plaintiffs and potential unspecified classes of business owners and workers throughout the state who have become unemployed as a result of Pritzker’s COVID-19 orders.
The lawsuit is the latest to challenge the governor’s authority to use emergency powers to shut down much of the commerce across the state through his stay at home orders.
Pritzker has repeatedly said the orders are needed to prevent tens of thousands of deaths from the highly contagious novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The governor has also stated publicly and argued in court he is not prevented by any constitutional amendment or provision, or any state law, from restricting a wide range of constitutional rights as part of the pandemic response. Those restrictions include limits on the rights to travel, operate a business and worship in religious assemblies churches and other houses of worship.
The governor has been challenged in a mounting number of legal actions over those actions. Three churches, for instance, have appealed to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago after two federal district judges ruled the governor has the authority under the Constitution to close churches indefinitely during a pandemic.
Other lawsuits assert the governor exceeded his authority under the Illinois Emergency Management Act. Plaintiffs in those state court cases say the law only gives the governor 30 days to exercise emergency powers after declaring an emergency. After that, they said, the governor needs approval from the Illinois General Assembly.