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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Michigan Supreme Court sides with Owosso barber in fight with state over reopening

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Steve Carmody
/
Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court has overturned orders that directed an Owosso barber to close his shop during the coronavirus pandemic.

Karl Manke reopened his barbershop a month ago.   The 77-year-old barber says he could no longer afford to stay closed. But Manke’s decision to reopen ran afoul of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's stay at home order to keep barbershops and salons closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

State officials took several steps during the past four weeks to force Manke to close.

The legal fight made Karl Manke a hero to critics of the governor’s executive orders. Many gathered outside his barbershop on a daily basis. Some of his supporters traveled hundreds of miles to get a haircut.

Eventually, state regulators suspended Manke’s barber license. The Michigan Court of Appeals accepted the state’s assertion that Manke presented an imminent threat to public health by violating the governor’s order.

But on Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court decided the appeals court made mistakes in telling a local judge to shut down Karl Manke's shop in Owosso.

Justice David Viviano says judges need to follow the "rule of law, not hysteria." Viviano also included a quote from the play "A Man for All Seasons" in his concurring opinion. 

Manke’s attorney welcomed the decision from Michigan’s highest court.

“This is a great day in Michigan for the protection of everyone’s constitutional rights,” says attorney David Kallman.

The decision may bring the legal battle between the state and Karl Manke to an end.

On Friday, Governor Whitmer announced she is lifting COVID-19 restrictions on barbershops, hair salons and other similar businesses soon. 

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