A county judge has ruled Gov. J.B. Pritzker exceeded his authority by extending the state’s public health disaster declaration beyond the first 30 days in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The impact of Thursday’s ruling by a judge from southern Illinois’ Clay County wasn’t immediately clear as the governor’s office maintains other courts have upheld his orders.
Clay County Judge Michael McHaney ruled that the 30 days of emergency powers provided to the governor by state law lapsed on April 8 and any executive orders afterward related to COVID-19 are void. The ruling said the state constitution did not allow Pritzker “to restrict a citizen’s movement or activities and/or forcibly close business premises.”
The lawsuit was filed by Republican state Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia, who was removed from a legislative session in May when he refused to wear a face mask.
“It feels awesome because this is freedom,” Bailey said outside the Clay County courthouse. “Somebody does not know what they are doing and that they desire totalitarian rule.”
Pritzker, a Democrat, has been gradually lifting coronavirus-related restrictions that were first imposed in the weeks after he declared a statewide disaster on March 9.
Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner downplayed the significance of the judge’s ruling.
“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,” Bittner said.
A federal judge ruled in Pritzker’s favor Thursday, denying the Republican Party’s request to temporarily block the governor’s limit on gatherings from applying to political parties.
Judge Sara Ellis wrote that the GOP groups “have not shown how this exemption is a plain invasion of their constitutional rights” and denied their request for a temporary restraining order.
“Plaintiffs ask that they be allowed to gather — without limitation — despite the advice of medical experts and the current rise in infections,” Ellis wrote. “The risks in doing so are too great.”
Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said he was disappointed and that “our fight to secure our First Amendment right is not over.”