Judge rules against Pritzker's stay-at-home order in downstate Illinois

Ruling applies to State Rep. Darren Bailey as a private citizen

State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, speaks Saturday at a protest against the stay-at-home order in front of the Capitol building in Springfield during the COVID-19 outbreak.
State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, speaks Saturday at a protest against the stay-at-home order in front of the Capitol building in Springfield during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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A downstate judge has ruled against Gov. JB Pritzker in a lawsuit filed against the governor and his extended stay-at-home order, according to multiple media reports Monday, issuing a restraining order against the governor's order.

Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney ruled against Pritzker’s latest stay-at-home order, set to take effect Friday and run through May 30.

Pritzker said he intends to fight the ruling.

State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, filed a lawsuit as a private citizen that argues the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act gives the governor authority to issue a disaster proclamation for only 30 days. Bailey argues the order is a violation of his civil rights.

“Enough is enough!” Bailey said in a statement released by his office when he filed the lawsuit Thursday. “I filed this lawsuit on behalf of myself and my constituents who are ready to go back to work and resume a normal life.”

The governor on Monday called Bailey and the judge’s ruling “an insult to all Illinoisans who have been lost during this COVID-19 crisis.”

A total of 1,983 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois and 45,883 have tested positive. Results came back from 12,676 tests between Sunday and Monday, with 15.6% of those tests coming back positive, down from 15.9% on Sunday.

“In Illinois, and nationally, we are operating on decades of precedent, in terms of how disaster proclamations work – from floods to tornadoes and now a global pandemic,” Pritzker said. “Disasters don’t necessarily evaporate on a 30-day time frame. The legislature took that into account when they wrote this law. In collaboration with the Attorney General’s office, my team and I will fight this legal battle to the furthest extent possible to ensure the public health and common sense, and that those prevail."

Pritzker's Chief of Staff, Anne Caprara also responded to the ruling on Twitter.

"Irresponsible, reckless, ignores the law, science and medical experts so that one grandstanding legislator can get a few press hits. An absolute disgrace. The state will appeal immediately and work to protect the many, many lives we are entrusted with," Caprara tweeted.

Bailey is the only plaintiff listed on the lawsuit, so it applies only to him. However, it has wide-ranging implications.

If the governor can’t enforce statewide stay-at-home restrictions, in theory, each local municipality could ease restrictions as it sees fit.

“That is the danger that Darren Bailey has put this state in,” Pritzker said. “People are in danger as a result of this ruling.”

The governor’s original disaster proclamation was issued March 9. The governor’s subsequent proclamations, such as the stay-at-home order, have addressed the pandemic as a “continuing public health emergency.”

The lawsuit argues that extending the order in such a manner beyond 30 days is beyond the governor’s power. It argues that Bailey is being “irreparably harmed” each day the order extends past April 8.

“Painful as our actions might be, the question boils down to life and death,” Pritzker said. “COVID-19 is responsible for denying the people of Illinois the precious moments of togetherness and steadiness of routine that have been put on pause in response to this global pandemic. The stay-at-home order has prevented tens of thousands of illnesses and thousands of deaths.”

The governor noted that representatives of both parties have put politics aside to address the virus throughout the pandemic.

When the extended stay-at-home order was announced Thursday, Illinois House minority leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said in a news release that “working together and implementing smart policy decisions will increase the safety of Illinois residents.” He also noted that the state must do more to restore economic vitality.

House Speaker Michael Madigan on Monday called the lawsuit “extremely reckless" in a news release.

Pritzker encouraged municipal leaders and citizens to follow the advice of health departments and scientists.

The results of the ruling arrived less than an hour after Illinois announced 1,980 new cases of COVID-19 and 50 additional deaths. Two of the top five counties with the highest infection rate in the state – Jasper and Randolph counties – are downstate.

Clay County, where Bailey's lawsuit was filed, borders Jasper County.

Newly reported deaths included 34 in Cook County, three each in Jefferson and Will counties, two in DuPage, Rock Island and Sangamon counties, and one each in Boone, Champaign, Jasper and Madison counties.

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