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Verdicts & Settlements

Michigan Supreme Court Won’t Stop Law-breaking Owosso Barber

— June 6, 2020

Owosso barber Karl Manke began defying Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order in early May, despite court orders to cease operations.

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Owosso barber Karl Manke, who was censured by a lower court for continuously defying Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s commercial coronavirus restrictions.

According to, the Supreme Court announced its order on Friday, June 5th. The decision vacates a Court of Appeals ruling which ordered Shiawassee County Circuit Court Judge Matthew A. Stewart to issue a preliminary injunction against Manke, effectively shuttering his business.

The Supreme Court appeared to take particular issue with the Court of Appeals’ decision-making process. In the unanimous, 7-0 decision, Justice David F. Viviano said it was “inexplicable” the lower court’s panel ruled against Manke without a full briefing or consideration of the barber’s argument.

“Courts decide legal questions that arise in the cases that come before us according to the rule of law,” Viviano wrote. “One hopes that this great principle—essential to any free society, including ours—will not itself become yet another casualty of COVID-19.”

The Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing, MI, which houses the state’s Supreme Court. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user: Subterranean. (CCA-BY-3.0).

The case has since been remanded by the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeals for further consideration. recounts how Manke had continuously defied the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Manke, a 77-year old Owosso barber, re-opened his shop at the beginning of May, following Gov. Whitmer’s extension of a shelter-in-place order. Despite the state’s repeated attempts to censure and shutter Manke’s business, the barber continued giving haircuts, even after Michigan revoked his license.

In the Supreme Court’s order, Viviano wrote, “It is incumbent on the courts to ensure decisions are made according to the rule of law, not hysteria.”

“Here, in addition to entering an order whose validity is highly suspect, the Court of Appeals majority took the extraordinary step of directing the trial court to take immediate action despite the fact that an application for leave had already been filed in our Court,” Viviano said.

Manke’s attorney, David A. Kallman, said he and his client are “ecstatic.”

“We feel our legal arguments have been vindicated by the court’s ruling,” Kallman told the MLive-The Flint Journal on Friday. “This has a big impact on the hearing that was set for next Thursday.”

However, Manke still faces pressure from the state. Earlier this week, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office filed a motion to hold Manke in contempt of court for continue to cut hair after the Court of Appeals’ ruling.

“That’s how vindictive they are against Karl,” Kallman said.

Although the Attorney General is seeking to fine Manke thousands of dollars for each day he operated his barbershop illegally, Kallman suggested the Supreme Court’s ruling could absolve his client.

“We’re very pleased,” he said. “We’re happy, and it’s a 7-0 decision by the Supreme Court.”


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