(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker is putting more weight behind advice he’s getting from medical statisticians than he is in the civil process to check his authority that many say is limiting people’s rights.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Friday sided with state Rep. Darren Bailey in his case against the governor’s stay-at-home orders that are more than two months old. Pritzker successfully moved the case Bailey filed in Clay County Circuit Court to a federal court. The DOJ said Bialey’s case should be heard in Illinois courts and there’s a strong case the governor exceeded his authority.
“It is up to the Illinois courts to rule on Plaintiff’s claims, which, because of the sweeping nature of the Orders, may affect millions of lives and raise significant constitutional concerns in other litigation,” federal attorneys wrote in their statement of interest.
Pritzker was asked Sunday why not have the state courts expedite the question instead of delaying it by moving it to federal court.
“The judiciary aren’t experts at public health. Taking these things to court doesn’t resolve the public health matter,” Pritzker said.
“Under our system, all public officials, including governors, must comply with the law, especially during times of crisis,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband said.
“Even during times of crisis, executive actions undertaken in the name of public safety must be lawful,” said Steven Weinhoeft, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. “And while the people of Illinois must be physically protected from the effects of this public health crisis, including by complying with CDC guidelines, their constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties must be safeguarded as well.”
Bailey’s attorney, Thomas DeVore, said the governor exceeded his authority.
“I believe in the law and I know of no authority that allows the executive branch to weild any power that he’s been wielding for the past two months,” DeVore said.
Bailey has argued local public health officials are the ones to resolve public health matters, not edicts from the governor. A hearing on Bailey’s case in federal court is expected Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Pritzker on Sunday said guidance documents are now available from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for businesses to open with limitations starting Friday. But businesses are opening up across the state anyway.
Pritzker said he was disappointed that before lawmakers left the capitol, the legislature didn’t make law his repealed rule to allow citations to businesses.
“They were unwilling to overt on anything like that, they didn’t get it done, so we’re going to have to look at other mechanisms,” Pritzker said, telling the media the legislature abdicated its responsibility.
The legislature is scheduled to return this fall.
The governor also said his administration is eyeing extending his orders that expire at the end of the month.
But the governor’s orders have been challenged by state representatives and individual business owners across the state. In Clay County, DeVore won a case for a business owner against the governor’s orders.
“We’re going to continue to work to try and get every citizen of this state and every business freed from having to abide by this executive order,” DeVore said. “That’s our goal.”