Pritzker lashes out at state lawmaker over legal challenge to stay-at-home order

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday that a southern Illinois judge set a dangerous precedent by ruling in favor of a state lawmaker who filed a lawsuit challenging his stay-at-home order.

The governor hit back at state Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, who won the first round of a legal battle that could go to the Illinois Supreme Court. Pritzker said he has great respect for the judiciary, but called the lawsuit a “charade” and a “political stunt.”

While a handful of states around the country are opening up, Pritzker plans to extend Illinois’ stay-at-home order through May 30 to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that emerged in 2019.

Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney ruled in favor of Bailey after a hearing on Monday and granted a temporary restraining order against the extension. The ruling only applies to Bailey. A similar lawsuit was expected to be filed Tuesday. Bailey’s attorney, Thomas DeVore, said additional challenges were expected.

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

On Tuesday, Pritzker said the lawsuit partisan politics.

“This was a cheap political stunt designed so that the representative could see his name in the headlines, and unfortunately he has briefly been successful in that most callus of feats,” Pritzker said.

The governor said he has appealed the ruling and hopes the issue will go to the Illinois Supreme Court. He said he didn’t want the legal fight to distract from the state’s work to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The governor said most people understand and support the state’s stay-at-home order, but he said some were trying to use the COVID-19 pandemic for political gain.

“I think there was a poll yesterday that showed the vast majority of people in the state – whether they are Democrats or Republicans – support the stay-at-home order, so I don’t think there is a partisan divide,” the governor said during a news conference in Chicago. “I do think that there are a few people who are trying to take political advantage at the moment – in the middle of the pandemic that is killing people – they’re politicizing it.”

Also on Tuesday, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike reported 2,219 new cases COVID-19 in Illinois, including 144 additional deaths. That’s the highest number of deaths reported in a single day since the first case of the new coronavirus was reported in Illinois.

Statewide, public health officials have confirmed 48,102 cases, including 2,125 deaths, in 96 of the state’s 102 counties.

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