After months of maneuvering, attorneys will be in court in Sangamon County Wednesday arguing over Gov. JB Pritzker’s powers to impose controls to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
The hearing involves multiple cases filed by attorney Thomas DeVore on behalf of clients in six counties who contend that the coronavirus pandemic is not a public health emergency under the definition of Illinois law.
Because of that, the lawsuits argue that Pritzker doesn’t have the authority impose restrictions like limit on businesses in order to control the spread of COVID-19.
The essentially identical lawsuits were originally filed in Edgar, Bond, Richland, Clinton, and Sangamon counties. In each case, plaintiffs want the court to declare a public health emergency does not exist and that Pritzker be barred from exercising powers under the Emergency Management Act in those counties.
The Illinois Supreme Court ordered that all of the cases be combined and heard in Sangamon County.
The Pritzker administration is seeking to have the cases dismissed. The administration says state law does not require the governor to make county-by-county disaster determinations before using his emergency powers and it says that a public health emergency does, in fact, exist, including in the counties involved in the lawsuits.
Attorneys will also argue two other issues at the hearing. One involves the administration’s effort to vacate a ruling against the governor that was handed down in Clay County in July. Judge Michael McHaney ruled that Pritzker didn’t have the authority after April 8 to issue executive orders for controlling the virus. He also said the governor didn’t have the authority to issue stay at home orders.
The administration said McHaney didn’t have the authority to make the ruling because the case wasn’t officially in his court. The administration had tried to have the case against Pritzker – filed by Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia – moved to federal court. The effort failed and the case was sent back to Clay County. The administration contends the process to return the case wasn’t completed when McHaney made his ruling. Bailey and DeVore contend that idea is erroneous.
At the same time, Bailey wants to add another count to that case which is also scheduled to be heard Wednesday. Bailey contends that no public health emergency exists in Clay County and that future orders issued by Pritzker for the coronavirus should not apply to the county.
The administration said that among other things the move is a delaying tactic to prevent the case from proceeding further in the judicial process.
DeVore did not return calls seeking comment.
Contact Doug Finke: email@example.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr