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Verdicts & Settlements

Michigan Supreme Court Invalidates Most Coronavirus-Related Orders Issued by Gov. Whitmer

— October 13, 2020

The justices’ ruling jeopardizes nearly 1 million unemployment claims.

The Michigan Supreme Court will not allow any of the executive orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act to remain in effect until the end of October.

Since many of Gov. Whitmer’s orders concern public health, as well as Michigan’s burgeoning rate of unemployment, the governor had hoped for additional time to coordinate a response with the state legislature. However, Republican leaders in Congress demanded that the court’s ruling take immediate effect.

And on Monday, Republicans got their wish as the court denied Whitmer’s request in a 6-1 decision.

The justices, adds, had earlier been asked to hear a case regarding Gov. Whitmer’s continued use of the Emergency Powers Act to issue coronavirus-related executive orders without legislative approval. While the Supreme Court did not necessarily condemn Whitmer’s issuance of orders, the justices—in a split, 4-3 ruling—did denounce the EPGA as unconstitutional.

And because the court found the Act illegal, all of Gov. Whitmer’s orders issued under it—from the end of April forward—have been retroactively invalidated.

Following the court’s decision, Gov. Whitmer asked the court to provide the state until October 31st to coordinate a legislative response with the state Congress.

Current Michigan Gov. and former Ford School faculty Gretchen Whitmer delivering a speech in 2015. Image via Flickr/user:FordSchool. (CCA-BY-2.0).

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack opined that the court does not have the authority to grant the governor’s request.

“Executive orders issued under that act are of no continuing legal effect,” the ruling stated. “This order is effective upon entry.”

Justice Richard Bernstein, the only member of the court to dissent, emphasized the unintended consequences of voiding Whitmer’s orders.

“Even assuming that the Legislature will be able to respond quickly, the governor notes that up to 830,000 active claimants may lose their benefits once this court’s opinion takes effect,” Bernstein wrote. “This represents a significant potential disruption to the livelihoods of Michigan in a time of great public crisis.”

Despite the effect, Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield, of Levering, praised the justices’ decision.

“Another big win at the Supreme Court today!” Chatfield wrote on Twitter. “The law is the law, and partisan politics can’t change that. The people will finally have their voices heard in the process. The House is in again tomorrow, and I hope the Governor is ready to cooperate. It’s time to work together!”

Michigan’s Republican-led legislature has, in fact, already begun to piece together a bill addressing unemployment benefits.

But conservatives have also tried to attach their unemployment proposal to another set of bills—bills which would make it virtually impossible for Michiganders to sue employers or businesses which fail to protect workers and the public from coronavirus.


Michigan Supreme Court denies request to extend Whitmer’s emergency powers

Michigan Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Whitmer’s emergency orders, effective immediately

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