U.S. Justice Dept. supporting businesses suing Gov. Whitmer over executive orders | Michigan Radio
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U.S. Justice Dept. supporting businesses suing Gov. Whitmer over executive orders

May 29, 2020

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Justice Department is throwing its support behind businesses suing the state of Michigan over the governor’s executive orders to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Along with signing her stay at home order, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued dozens of other executive orders. The orders shut down businesses across the state.   

In recent weeks, as the number of daily new COVID-19 cases in Michigan has declined, the governor has been loosening restrictions, particularly in parts of Michigan with a low number of confirmed cases and deaths.

Last month, a group of business owners from different parts of Michigan filed a lawsuit in federal court in Grand Rapids. The plaintiffs question the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic.   

The lawsuit claims the governor’s orders are arbitrary and discriminate against their businesses and are impairing the economic livelihoods of many Michigan businesses. 

The lawsuit names Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and MDHHS Director Robert Gordon.

The lawsuit challenges the governor’s executive orders and seeks an injunction. 

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider is the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. 

Schneider says he believes the governor has “good intentions, but the Executive Orders arbitrarily discriminate.”

Schneider is among a group appointed by U.S. Attorney General William Barr a month ago to review actions taken by governors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of its statement of interest, the Justice Department says the facts alleged by the plaintiffs in the Michigan lawsuit “could amount to violations of the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.” 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a statement accusing the U.S. Department of Justice of seeking “to undermine the health and safety of Michigan residents.”

Whitmer believes the legal challenge is coming directly from the White House, which she accuses of ignoring the risk of a second wave of the virus and pushing too quickly to roll back public health guidelines.

“Throughout this crisis, we have followed the science and listened to medical experts to keep our hospital system from collapsing and protect front line health workers who are looking out for the people of Michigan,” says Whitmer.

The governor adds she has “absolute confidence” in the legal authority she has exercised.