Rockford, Illinois News

Judge rules against Pritzker’s COVID-19 restrictions

CLAY COUNTY, Ill. – A Clay County judge’s ruling ending Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders limiting businesses and individual movements applies to everyone, according to the courts. But it’s unclear when the issue finally will be resolved.

Just before the Independence Day holiday weekend, state Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, stepped out of a courtroom with wins against the governor. Bailey challenged Pritzker’s authority to extend COVID-19 related restrictions beyond April 9.

Pritzker declared a statewide disaster because of the pandemic on March 9. He’s extended that order every 30 days. But Clay County Circuit Judge Michael McHaney ruled the governor couldn’t extend the declaration past 30 days.

McHaney also said the motion for summary judgment in Bailey’s favor shall apply to all commonly situated citizens, not just Bailey. Bailey’s attorney explained any order after April 9 related to COVID-19 is void.

“One of them that comes to mind with me is one of the most recent that limits the occupancy that people can have in their businesses,” DeVore said. “That’s going to as we stand here right now.”

Pritzker’s most recent order limited customer capacity at businesses depending on the industry.

Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner, in a statement to the Chicago Tribune, said the governor’s executive orders were constitutional.

“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. “This includes a federal court decision earlier today.”

Kent Redfield, a longtime politics professor, said the issue really won’t be cleared up if Pritzker appeals through to the Illinois Supreme Court.

“It does make for a messy legal situation until these things get resolved,” Redfield said, noting it adds uncertainty and confusion into the current climate. “Ultimately what is going to happen with people’s behavior … the public gets a vote in this in terms of how they are going to behave.”

The Illinois Attorney General’s office said it is reviewing the ruling and will evaluate its options, but DeVore said the window for state government to file a stay pausing the ruling is closed.

“What that means is that, until a review in court otherwise sometime down the road, month, two, three or four, renders a ruling, the court’s order here today stands, which means there is no restrictions by the governor,” DeVore said.

DeVore said pandemic management now goes back to local county health departments.

“I think each individual health department has the authority that they’ve been granted by the legislative branch of the government,” DeVore said. “They can read what the authority is.”

The governor can still file an appeal, which could go all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.