Governor’s office, AG’s office and Department of Health agree to split settlement evenly, while denying liability
The State of Michigan will pay $200,000 to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy to cover legal costs incurred in litigation that overturned Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 emergency orders as illegal. In its 2020 ruling, the court also dismissed the State Emergency Powers Act 1945 as unconstitutional.
“We were there when Michigan needed us,” said Patrick Wright, vice president of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.
As a condition of the settlement, the costs will be split equally between the governor’s office, the attorney general’s office and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, an executive agency. The state denies responsibility, but has accepted the charges.
In May 2020, just two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation and the Grand Rapids-based law firm Miller Johnson filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the powers of attorney. Whitmer emergency.
The Mackinac Center represented three medical providers and a patient, Jeffrey Gulick of Owosso, who were denied access to their jobs and to intensive care unless the visit was deemed “essential.”
The state would decide what was essential and what was not. Gulick required knee replacement surgery, deemed non-essential.
“It was tough,” being one of the few voices speaking out against Whitmer’s unilateral powers, just two months into the pandemic, Joseph G. Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center, told CapCon. “But that’s what the Mackinac Center does, and that’s what the Mackinac Center is. The Mackinac Center was created for precisely what it just did: to directly confront a gross abuse of government power and give voice to the people.
In October 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ruled that extensions of Whitmer’s emergency powers beyond April 30, 2020, without legislative approval, were illegal.
And in a 4-3 decision, the court declared Michigan’s Emergency Powers Act of 1945 unconstitutional. In one case, the governor’s emergency powers were severely limited.
All orders issued after April 30, 2020 have been revoked. In Wayne County alone, this has led to the dismissal of more than 1,700 tickets for violating public health orders, including 1,632 in Detroit.
Lehman added, “For five months, Governor Whitmer ignored the law, suppressed civil liberties, and controlled the daily activities of Michigan’s 10 million people. Meanwhile, Governor’s Orders sought to micromanage almost every aspect of our lives.
“It’s one of our all-time highlights, coming in and winning this case,” Wright said.
“If the Mackinac Center closed tomorrow, it could very well be the only thing we would be known for,” Lehman said of the emergency powers affair.
Wright said that if the Emergency Powers Act of 1945 had not been struck down and the Emergency Powers Act of 1976 had not been breached, Whitmer could have claimed the power to maintain the state of emergency until the economy has recovered.
Wright cites Whitmer’s Executive Orders 2020-67 and 2020-68, which read:
“Additionally, state disaster and emergency recovery efforts remain necessary to not only support Michiganders in need due to the economic effects of this pandemic, but also to ensure that the prospect of a loss of income does not force potentially infected workers to report to work, which would compromise infection control and contribute to the spread of the virus. Coordinating these statewide efforts is critical to creating a stable path to recovery. Until this recovery is underway, the economic and fiscal damage of this pandemic has been contained, and the threats posed by COVID-19 to life and the public health, safety and welfare of this state have been neutralized, disasters and statewide emergency conditions will exist.”
That is, “Statewide disasters and emergency conditions will exist” until Whitmer declares the economy has recovered sufficiently – as defined by his own office. .
“So without our legal victory, Whitmer could still have claimed there was an economic emergency that required his control,” Wright said.
The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation represents clients free of charge.