Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Lawsuit Filed by Michigan House and Senate Over Executive Authority

The Michigan House and Senate Legislature filed a lawsuit today (May 6th, 2020) against Governor Whitmer's "improper and invalid" executive orders. There has been a dispute brewing over when the initial emergency and when the power to issue Executive Orders effectively ends. In the beginning when COVID was first occurring there was broad initial agreement that it was necessary to give the Governor power to make quick decisions. As the first wave of risk factors decline and the crisis elongates there is growing debate as to when powers should migrate back to legislature. An agreed upon definition in the law seems to be a primary issue.

There are three entities at work here that include 1. Executive Branch, 2. Legislative Branch, and 3. Judicial Branch. Because the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch have a dispute and compromise was not settled on the Judicial Branch will get involved. While most court cases take a long time to settle it is hoped by the legislature that because of the rapid nature of events that this one will be decided on in quick pace. This occurs against the backdrop of a May 5th, 2020 affirmation by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel that Governor Whitmer is "Acting within the scope of the law" (Nessel, May 4th, 2020).

Party Comments: 

House Speaker Lee Chatfield states in a Detroit Free Press article that "common sense" changes to restrictions are needed and she isn't willing to work with legislature, "Because of that, we filed a lawsuit today in the Court of Claims, challenging the governor's unconstitutional actions. (Mauger, May 6th, 2020, para 4)."

In response, Tiffany Brown, Governor Whitmer's spokesperson offers, "Her No. 1 priority is saving lives. She’s making decisions based on science and data, not political or legal pressure (Mauger, May 6th, para 6). Arguments being that these decisions are made in the best interest of everyone in a way that saves people's lives and that such actions are a necessary part of getting over the crisis.

The Actual Court Case Filing:

You can see the May 6th 2020 actual filing CASE: 20-000079-MZ. You have to search out the Governor's name to see the filing. There are a couple of other things in there.

When reviewing the case filing in the Michigan Court of Claims you can see they are seeking a " IMMEDIATE DECLARATORY JUDGMENT".  An Immediate Declaratory Judgment is a binding judgement that rules on the relationship between two parties. It is like an authority opinion. They are not often issued right away because judges typically want to see the case develop (1). However, when there are pressing issues with limited time it is possible to issue a Cease and Desist order. That would be an indication that one of the parties is doing something wrong and should stop their behavior or otherwise further legal action will be taken. (Note: I'm not an attorney so look for yourself and make your own opinion.).

Video by Senate Majority Mike Shirkey

Mauger, C. (May 6th, 2020). Michigan House, Senate sue Gov. Whitmer, call emergency powers 'invalid'. The Detroit News, para 4 & 6.

Nessel, D (May 4th, 2020). Executive Orders 2020-69 & 2020-70. Attorney General State of Michigan. Retrieved

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