Michigan Supreme Court rules against Gretchen Whitmer's executive powers

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The Michigan Supreme Court Friday ruled against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders that have restricted Michiganders’ daily lives for the past 207 days.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on the question of the 1976 Emergency Management Act, but split 4-3 that the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act “is an unlawful delegation of legislative power to the executive branch in violation of the Michigan Constitution.”

The court ruled that any executive orders issued after April 30 “lack any basis under Michigan law.”

“The Governor did not possess the authority to exercise emergency powers under the EPGA because the act unlawfully delegates legislative power to the executive branch in violation of the Michigan Constitution,” they wrote.

Whitmer initially declared a State of Emergency for COVID-19 on March 10 after the first known cases.

The legislature approved a first extension of the emergency but declined another extension beyond April 30.

So Whitmer acted alone, arguing the 1945 law authorized her widespread actions.

Three medical centers sued Whitmer in May challenging her executive order that prohibited “non-essential” health procedures, one of the more than 190 executive orders so far.

The supreme court ruled that the 1945 law constitutes an unconstitutional delegation of lawmaking authority from the legislative to the executive branch.

“The Court has restored the voices of 10 million Michiganders by reaffirming the constitutional protections of checks and balances afforded through the separation of powers,” Patrick Wright, vice president of legal affairs at the Mackinac Center and director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, said in a statement.

“This important decision was too long in the making, but now future COVID responses will have the benefit of including the people’s representatives through the legislative process.”

The decision will require Whitmer to work with the legislature going forward.

Whitmer called the ruling “deeply disappointing.”

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling, handed down by a narrow majority of Republican justices, is deeply disappointing, and I vehemently disagree with the court’s interpretation of the Michigan Constitution. Right now, every state and the federal government have some form of declared emergency. With this decision, Michigan will become the sole outlier at a time when the Upper Peninsula is experiencing rates of COVID infection not seen in our state since April,” Whitmer said in a statement.

“It is important to note that this ruling does not take effect for at least 21 days, and until then, my emergency declaration and orders retain the force of law. Furthermore, after 21 days, many of the responsive measures I have put in place to control the spread of the virus will continue under alternative sources of authority that were not at issue in today’s ruling.”

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox celebrated the ruling.

“This is a great day for the people of Michigan,” Cox said in a statement. “The court rightly recognized that the constitution gives the legislature a role to represent the people of this state. Governor Whitmer overexerted her powers. The legislature wants to be a willing partner in dealing with COVID-19 and Governor Whitmer should recognize their duly delegated role.”

House Speaker Lee Chatfield also applauded the news.

“The Supreme Court ruled today in agreement with the legislature that the 1945 law is unconstitutional. The governor had no right to extend the state of emergency over the Legislature’s objection. Our Constitution matters, and this was a big win for our democratic process. We will now continue our partnership with our governor. We will work through this challenge as our Constitution requires and as we always have in times past – together.”

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, expressed his disappointment.

“This is unfortunate,” Ananich said. “The Senate Democrats accept that the responsibility of keeping Michiganders safe from this unruly pandemic is now in the hands of the Legislature, and we will continue to partner with the governor in her herculean battle against COVID-19. We believe the wisest course of action would be to immediately adopt the governor’s orders via legislation in order to keep us safe.”

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