The U.S. Department of Justice announced its support Friday of a lawsuit filed by an Illinois lawmaker challenging restrictions imposed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order.
State Rep. Darren Bailey, a Republican from Xenia, filed the suit last month, claiming Pritzker exceeded his authority and violated the civil rights of the state’s residents in issuing the stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, Pritzker moved Bailey's lawsuit from state to federal court, just hours before a hearing was scheduled to take place Friday.
Bailey's argument that his civil rights were violated provided the basis for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul's motion to transfer the case to federal court, which has jurisdiction over matters pertaining to the U.S. Constitution.
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“The Attorney General’s office will continue to defend the governor’s constitutional and statutory right to act to protect the health and safety of all Illinois residents," Raoul's spokeswoman Annie Thompson said in a statement.
In a statement, the DOJ said the lawsuit, which claims that state law gives the governor only a 30-day period for exercising emergency powers, raises issues of state law, so it belongs in state, not federal court.
"The Governor of Illinois owes it to the people of Illinois to allow his state’s courts to adjudicate the question of whether Illinois law authorizes orders he issued to respond to COVID-19,” said Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
A second Republican state lawmaker, Rep. John Cabello of the Rockford area, filed another lawsuit against Pritzker days later in Winnebago County Circuit Court, seeking an injunction stopping the governor and any other state officials from enforcing the order.
Last month, Pritzker loosened some restrictions of the stay-at-home order as he extended it through May 30, with more than 100,000 confirmed cases and 4,525 deaths across the state as of Thursday.