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Landmark Verdict: Michigan Court Curbs COVID-19 Mandates, Declares Overreach

Landmark Verdict: Michigan Court Curbs COVID-19 Mandates, Declares Overreach

Landmark Verdict in Michigan Restricts COVID-19 Health Mandates

In an astonishing legal development, Michigan’s Court of Appeals has declared that the state’s health department overstepped its bounds by imposing restrictions on indoor dining amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ruling, issued on a Thursday, underscored that such authority was an “unconstitutional delegation of legislative power”. This article delves into the case that led to this significant judicial decision.

Appeal Traced to 2021 Health Department Order

The basis for the appeal was a grievance lodged in the Michigan Court of Claims in April 2021. This followed the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issuing an order to curb gatherings as COVID-19 cases surged alarmingly.

The order had severe repercussions for businesses across the state, particularly the restaurant industry, leading to almost a total shutdown.

Court of Appeals Judge Michael Gadola, in a 2-1 ruling, denounced the order as a demonstration of excessively wide-reaching power and concluded that it affected practically every aspect of daily life for the people of Michigan.

A Constitutional Battle: Executive versus Legislative Power

Judge Gadola also observed that the power assigned to the executive branch in Michigan law is extremely broad and lacks any discernible restrictions.

Such expansive authority, he claimed, equates to an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. This argument lies at the heart of River Crest Catering’s complaint.

River Crest Catering, an Oakland County-based company, argued that MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel exceeded her authority in issuing the emergency declaration, which limited indoor dining hours and the overall operation of food service businesses.

A History of Power Struggles

The Michigan Supreme Court had previously determined in October 2020 that Governor Gretchen Whitmer didn’t have the authority to declare a state of emergency or disaster based on the COVID-19 pandemic under either the Emergency Management Act or the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act. This decision was justified by the powers allocated to the governor in the Michigan Constitution.

Appeal to the Appeal

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in response to the court’s decision, declared its intention to appeal.

Department spokesperson Lynn Sutfin communicated that the department utilized a number of tools to protect Michigan citizens from the fast-spreading, deadly virus and that the department’s epidemic orders were based on authority given by the Legislature over a century ago.

Sutfin also pointed out that the specific orders this lawsuit challenges have been defunct for over two years now.

Future Implications

This ruling is not a moot point, even if the pandemic’s severe stage is over, as Michigan law still allows the state health department to issue emergency orders. As Judge Gadola noted, this is a “public issue of significance that is likely to recur.”

Attorney Al Addis, who represented River Crest Catering, hailed the verdict as “huge” and a potential game-changer for similar cases in the future.

A Ray of Hope for the Affected

Despite the momentous victory, the damage to businesses like River Crest Catering, which closed after the Court of Claims rejected its case, is substantial. Even with this ruling, it may be too late for many.

A Divided Court: Dissenting Opinions

Not every judge on the panel agreed with the majority decision. Court of Appeals Judge Christopher Yates offered a dissenting opinion, arguing that ongoing court disputes over COVID-19 regulations should be dismissed as they’ve become irrelevant.

Describing the case as “as moot as moot can be,” Yates called for an end to these “COVID wars,” advocating for moving forward rather than dwelling on the past.

However, the significance of this ruling cannot be understated. It reflects an ongoing struggle between public health measures and constitutional liberties, one that has been thrust into the spotlight amid the unprecedented conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An Unfinished Battle: Legal Challenges and Their Consequences

This groundbreaking Court of Appeals decision sets a crucial precedent that could influence a variety of ongoing cases.

For instance, attorney Al Addis pointed out that a case he currently has in the Michigan Supreme Court, filed by the Macomb County Restaurant Association, shares many arguments with this one.

“This decision, along with what the Supreme Court has already ruled, basically says that nobody had any right to impose these measures, which was our argument all along,” Addis said. “The losses incurred by the restaurant and banquet industry have been enormous.”

National Implications: Looking Beyond Michigan

This ruling resonates beyond the borders of Michigan. Across the United States, there’s been no conclusive evidence showing that states that didn’t enforce restaurant closures and similar restrictions fared any worse than those who did.

The ruling serves as a much-needed “ray of sunshine” for an industry severely affected by the pandemic, even though it’s “too late for most,” according to Addis.

As such, the fate of River Crest Catering stands as a stark reminder of the pandemic’s economic toll. The owner had hoped to reopen after his case was rejected by the Court of Claims but was unable to do so.

A Critical Takeaway: Balancing Public Health with Economic Vitality

This case underscores the delicate balance between public health measures and economic vitality, a theme recurrent in global discussions since the onset of the pandemic.

The verdict might represent a landmark moment in the reassessment of governmental authority during public health crises and could shape future responses to similar situations.

This legal saga continues to unfold, and its ramifications will be closely monitored, not just in Michigan, but across the entire United States. To keep up-to-date with this story and more, keep an eye on

The Detroit News.

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