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The Illinois attorney general’s office is expected to appeal a decision by a judge that voided Governor J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus lockdown orders.
A southern Illinois judge ruled Thursday in the lawsuit filed by state Rep. Darren Bailey challenging the Democrat governor’s authority to extend disaster proclamations past the initial 30 days and issuing executive orders that restrict residents and businesses.
Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” reopening plan has been riding on extensions of his initial COVID-19 disaster declaration in the state in early March as he has issued renewals every 30 days on the stay-at-home order.
But on Thursday, Clay County Circuit Judge Michael McHaney ruled that state law does not give any governor the authority to issue executive orders restricting the activities of individuals or businesses or to extend disaster proclamations past the initial 30 days, the Chicago Tribune reported.
BREAKING: Judge Michael McHaney Just Ruled Against Illinois Governor Pritzker saying he “Cannot Restrict Freedoms”
ILLINOIS IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS and the Judge has left the building for the Fourth of July Weekend! 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/qUH2LHiEXE
— Matt Couch 🎙 (@RealMattCouch) July 2, 2020
The judge’s ruling Thursday voided all COVID-19 related executive orders that Pritzker has issued since early April.
“The Court declares Defendant had no Illinois constitutional authority as Governor to restrict a citizen’s movement or activities and/or forcibly close business premises,” McHaney wrote.
A limit on crowd sizes and more stringent regulations for businesses are part of the fourth phase of Pritzker’s reopening plan which has been relying on the governor’s extensions as the legal basis for decisions.
“That’s gone as we stand here right now,” Bailey’s attorney, Thomas DeVore, said, according to the Tribune.
“This is a victory for freedom. This is a victory for the people of Illinois,” Bailey said outside the courthouse, later tweeting, “Illinois is Open! Live Responsible!”
Illinois is Open!
— Darren Bailey (@DarrenBaileyIL) July 2, 2020
“It feels awesome because this is freedom,” Bailey said Thursday. “Somebody does not know what they are doing and that they desire totalitarian rule.”
— Darren Bailey (@DarrenBaileyIL) July 3, 2020
Bailey, a Republican running for a state Senate seat in November, had withdrawn and refiled an earlier lawsuit in which McHaney had ruled in his favor.
“Every other court – both state and federal – that has considered these exact issues has agreed with the administration that executive orders protecting Illinoisans’ health and safety are well within the governor’s constitutional authority,” Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement.
“While this one county circuit court has gone a different direction from all of the other cases, the administration will ultimately seek to appeal this ruling, and the Governor will continue to urge the people of Illinois to exercise constant vigilance and keep doing what has worked: wash your hands, watch your distance and wear your face covering,” she added.
A separate case brought by the chair of the Illinois Republican Party saw a federal court rule in favor of Pritzker’s orders, adding some confusion over which of the restrictions still apply.
U.S. District Judge Sara Ellis ruled against the Illinois Republican Party and its request to temporarily block Pritzker’s restriction order on crowd sizes as it relates to political parties.
“Plaintiffs ask that they be allowed to gather — without limitation — despite the advice of medical experts and the current rise in infections,” Ellis wrote in the 21-page ruling issued Thursday. “The risks in doing so are too great.”
“The current state of our nation demands that we sacrifice the benefits of in-person interactions for the greater good. Enjoining the Order would risk infections amongst members of the Illinois Republican Party and its regional affiliates, as well as their families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers,” the order read.
“The Court acknowledges that Plaintiffs’ interest in gathering as a political party is important, especially leading up to an election,” the ruling continued. “But this interest does not outweigh the Governor’s interest in protecting the health of Illinois’ residents during this unprecedented public health crisis.”
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider acknowledged that the Illinois GOP was “disappointed” with Ellis’s decision but vowed to appeal.
“Our fight to secure our First Amendment right is not over, however,” he said in a statement.
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