Judge rules Pritzker’s COVID-19 executive orders ‘void,’ state to appeal

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(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CLAY COUNTY, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Governor J.B. Pritzker’s emergency powers to issue executive orders to close businesses or order people to stay at home expired 85 days ago on April 8th, 2020, a judge in Clay County Circuit Court ruled on Thursday afternoon.

The ruling did not find the state has no power to forcibly close businesses or to restrict a citizen’s movements, but rather that those powers are derived from the Illinois Department of Public Health Act, not under the Illinois Emergency Management Act. Pritzker’s administration has at times cited both portions of state law to enforce his orders.

State Representative Darren Bailey (R-Lousiville) initially brought the case against the Pritzker administration, and won an early round to free himself from the Governor’s orders. The court on Thursday granted Bailey’s request to apply the ruling to all citizens of the state of Illinois.

The Pritzker administration said the court ruling will not require the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois Emergency Management Agency to make any changes to the way they are operating during the pandemic.

Judge Michael McHaney previously said Pritzker’s use of executive authority “shreds the constitution.” The Pritzker administration said it plans to appeal the judge’s ruling, and pointed to numerous other court rulings that have upheld the power of governors to enact public health regulations.

A spokesperson for the Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said, “We are reviewing the decision and will evaluate our options.” Previously, Raoul’s office said it would appeal any ruling that blocked Pritzker’s powers.

The Pritzker administration has issued consecutive executive orders based on the same emergency declaration since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak. The executive orders have included several updates, including the most recent change to up to 50 people inside most businesses, with some exceptions.

“Governor Pritzker will continue to prioritize Illinoisans’ health and safety first, and the people of Illinois have taken extraordinary care to follow health experts’ advice, which is why our state has the lowest positivity rate in the Midwest,” Pritzker communications chief Emily Bittner said in an emailed statement.

“The Governor will continue to urge the people of Illinois to exercise constant vigilance and keep doing what has worked: wash your hands, watch your distance and wear your face covering.”

The Governor’s office says Phase 4 guidelines remain in effect.

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