Clay County judge rules in favor of state lawmaker who challenged Illinois governor’s stay-at-home order

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker called a state lawmaker’s decision to challenge the stay-at-home in court dangerous after the lawmaker won an early round in a court battle that could reach the state’s highest court.

Pritzker’s stay-at-home order issued March 21 was set to expire April 7, but he extended them through the end of April and is set to extend a modified order through May 30.

The order requires people to stay home except for essential trips such as visits to the grocery store and going outside for exercise. It also shuttered all non-essential businesses.

State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, sued Gov. J.B. Pritzker in Clay County Circuit Court, claiming the governor’s stay-at-home order violated Bailey’s rights. The lawsuit asked for relief from the orders for Bailey alone.

“This is awesome,” Bailey said after the ruling. “This is what we stand for as Americans – we don’t let one person sit and dictate an outcome or ruling for everybody.”

Bailey previously said his lawsuit was needed to prompt judicial review of orders that he said exceeded the governor’s legal authority.

Pritzker got the news in real-time on Monday during his daily COVID-19 briefing.

“The question boils down to life and death,” Pritzker said, adding that the stay-at-home order saved lives. “Rep. Darren Bailey’s decision to take to the courts to try and dismantle public health directives designed to keep people safe is an insult to all Illinoisans who have been lost during this COVID-19 crisis and it’s a danger to millions of people who may get ill because of his recklessness.”

The governor said Bailey was looking for personal celebrity and said the lawmaker had “made an enemy of science and reason.”

Bailey said that kind of rhetoric was “irresponsible.”

“I think what he was most upset about is that his power is going to be stripped from him,” Bailey said. “You want to talk about the celebrity status, this guy has been doing this every day.”

The legal challenges don’t stop with Bailey’s case. State Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, said he’s filed a suit identical to Bailey’s in Winnebago County.

“This is the second lawsuit I’ve ever filed in my life, so I’m not a sue-happy person,” Cabello said. “But when I see something going on and it continues to be wrong in my opinion, and many others’ opinions, we’re going to do something about it.

“I hope it sends a wake-up call to the governor, the guy who is acting like a dictator,” Cabello added. “He closed or is keeping closed Rock Cut State Park while he opens up many other state parks. They’ve gone too far in what they’re demanding.”

Pritzker said his orders were lawful and enforceable. He urged local law enforcement to uphold his order, but has repeatedly said he would like to see voluntary compliance rather than arrests.

Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey said on Monday that putting that onus on local law enforcement to enforce the governor’s edict carried too much liability.

“You arrest somebody because they have four people in a boat and you can’t charge them and they end up suing because they’ve lost their job because they got arrested and spent time in jail, that’s just not worth it for us,” Downey said. “We have enough liabilities issues to worry about on a daily basis and this would just exacerbate that problem and I don’t see it being legitimate.”

Pritzker said his office will push to put a stay on the circuit court ruling and will defend against the push to overturn his order.

“It’s insulting, it’s dangerous, and people’s safety and health has now been put at risk,” Pritzker said. “There may be people who contract coronavirus as a result of what Darren Bailey has done now.”

Cabello said there are ways of safeguarding yourself, “but when you demand that the citizens’ assets are closed, but they still have to pay for them, I have an issue with that.”

On Friday, Pritzker criticized Douglas County Sheriff Joshua Blackwell saying his refusal to enforce the executive order puts people at risk of getting COVID-19.

Downey said Pritzker’s criticism of people challenging his authority was “irresponsible.”

“Each individual in our county is responsible for their own health and safety,” Downey said. “We are responsible for their safety. What they do in their social life obviously dictates where they’re going healthwise. For him to blame sheriffs, which doesn’t surprise me, is irresponsible.”

Attorney Thomas DeVore, who represents both Bailey and Cabello, said his takeaway from Judge Michael McHaney on Monday was the judge “recognized and appreciated that while we do have a pandemic that does not give any branch of government the ability to take unilateral control over the response.”

“I think his exact words were ‘the governor is shredding the constitution,’ ” DeVore said.

DeVore said the two sides will decide on a hearing date. It could also be directly appealed to an appellate court or the Illinois Supreme Court could intervene.

While the Clay County order only applies to Bailey, DeVore said he taken calls from many other people and businesses who want to file similar lawsuits.

“I’d expect in the near future that this issue was raised by Mr. Bailey successfully today is going to start cascading around the state,” DeVore said.

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