The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office says that it will not enforce an executive order by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker shutting down indoor dining amid soaring coronavirus numbers, citing questions about the “legitimacy” of the governor’s actions.
In a press release, the SAO said it “cannot in good conscience” enforce the rules on indoor dining, which were implemented as part of a statewide set of coronavirus mitigations aimed at curbing the number of new infections and hospitalizations statewide.
“The legitimacy of the governor exercising ‘emergency’ powers, going on ten months now, could have been easily answered by the Illinois legislature, (but they) have yet to consider or legislate on one of the most important issues this state has ever faced,” the office said in a statement. “Rather, the governor has taken it upon himself to unilaterally make ‘laws’ by executive order that drastically impact the day-to-day lives and constitutional rights of every Illinois resident and then execute those laws.
“This is a dangerous combination in a constitutional republic,” the office added.
Courts have largely sided with the governor in lawsuits filed over various mitigations, with courts in McHenry, DuPage and Cook counties denying requests for temporary restraining orders when restaurants filed suit over the governor’s plan to shut down indoor dining in October.
In another ruling stemming from a Kane County case, a state appellate court ruled that Pritzker was authorized under the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act to issue multiple disaster proclamations. That ruling came after a Kane County judge gave a TRO to a restaurant seeking an injunction allowing them to continue indoor service after the new mitigation rules were announced.
In response to the McHenry County announcement, Pritzker warned that failure to adhere to the state’s health mandates could lead to more coronavirus infections, and asked that public officials reconsider decisions not to enforce state mandates.
“I would hope that officers of the court like state’s attorneys would follow the laws of the state of Illinois and do the right thing because people are getting sick,” he said during a Wednesday press conference. “If you don’t do the right thing, more people will get sick.”
The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office said that it will enforce limits on business occupancy and those requiring masks in businesses, which it says were “lawfully promulgated” by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The press release also cautioned business owners that violations of executive orders could face consequences from the Illinois State Police, Illinois Attorney General, Liquor Control Commission and the State Gaming Board.
Pritzker and other public health officials have warned of potential consequences for businesses that opt to stay open in defiance of state mandates, saying that licenses could be pulled in those cases. Those officials have said they prefer other enforcement mechanisms to be used prior to taking that ultimate step.