Illinois governor says courts should ‘follow through’ on challenge to stay-at-home order

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the state’s courts should “follow through” to deal with challenges to his authority during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Clay County, attorney Thomas DeVore said a circuit judge on Monday could issue an immediate temporary restraining order against the governor in favor of state Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia.

Bailey filed a lawsuit as a citizen challenging the governor’s rolling executive orders, which the governor has said were designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The order keeps certain businesses closed and limits travel outside of homes to essential matters such as trips to the grocery story, medical visits and going outside for exercise.

While a ruling in favor of Bailey would only apply to Bailey, DeVore said it could send a signal to others.

“He’s a citizen, so if he as a citizen is entitled to that relief, I would ask them to go talk to their lawyer to see if they’re also entitled to that relief,” DeVore said.

If the order goes against Bailey, the lawmaker said he’ll take the matter to the state Supreme Court.

Pritzker on Sunday was asked if the courts should act quickly.

“I think that the courts need to follow through on this,” Pritzker said. “The obvious answer to this is frankly that the governor has the authority to issue a disaster proclamation.”

Some have argued the governor’s initial disaster declaration and executive authority ended earlier this month, 30 days from the initial proclamation. Pritzker said the state has issued proclamations back-to-back before during times of floods.

Another state representative is interpreting an internal memo from the state appellate prosecutor’s office as a sign the governor’s power during the COVID-19 pandemic is eroding.

State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said the memo from the Appellate Prosecutor’s office is clear.

“It’s really telling and it’s kind of what we thought all along that it kind of blows holes in all these executive orders and I think [the memo’s author] has it right,” Halbrook said as he was protesting the governor’s stay-at-home order Sunday outside the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

The memo issued April 21 from Appellate Prosecutor Chief Deputy Director David Robinson to Director Patrick Delfino concluded while stay at home and social distancing are great recommendations, criminal enforcement “is a different question.”

Robinson said their research leaves him “less than confident that a reviewing court will hold that the governor has the authority to close businesses, bar attendance at church services and assemblies in excess of ten citizens.”

Pritzker on Saturday said his orders can be enforced, but wants local governments to do it.

“I have suggested that people should simply self-police,” Pritzker said. “And that certainly law enforcement officers have the ability, and I would encourage them to remind people what their obligations are.”

On Sunday, the governor said people found defiant of the order, like the coming order to require face coverings in certain places, could be arrested and charged with misconduct. Some sheriffs throughout the state said they won’t enforce the governor’s order because it’s not a law. The requirement for wearing face coverings in some public places where social distancing isn’t possible starts May 1.

In other court action, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission last week withdrew an emergency rule putting the onus on employers if their employee gets COVID-19 after a Sangamon County Judge put a temporary restraining order in place.

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