(Grand Rapids, MI – April 27, 2020) – Today, a federal judge signed a stipulated order granting all of the relief requested by the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) in its expedited motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction filed in its federal civil rights lawsuit against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and several county prosecutors, challenging certain provisions of Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-42.
The lawsuit was filed on April 15, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on behalf of three Michigan residents, Kimberly Beemer, Paul Cavanaugh, and Robert Muise. The lawsuit alleges that various provisions of the Governor’s executive order violate the First (freedom of association), Second (right to bear arms), and Fourteenth (due process and equal protection) Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and the Michigan Constitution’s protection of the right to bear arms.
To avoid “irreparable harm,” on April 20, 2020, following a “meet and confer” with the Governor’s lawyers in which they refused to grant the relief requested, AFLC filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction. The Governor filed a response in opposition to the motion on April 23, 2020. The Court scheduled a hearing on the motion for April 30, 2020, and a status conference on April 24, 2020, to discuss the procedures for the hearing.
Just hours prior to the status conference, Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-59. As a result of this revised executive order, which followed on the heels of the lawsuit, the Governor agreed to stipulate to the following, which the judge entered as a court order today:
- Executive Order 2020-59 permits individuals to travel between their own residences and cottages within the State of Michigan, thereby permitting Plaintiff Beemer, along with members of her household, to travel to and from her residence in Saginaw, Michigan and her cottage located in Charlevoix County, Michigan, and permitting Plaintiff Cavanaugh, along with members of his household, to travel to and from his residence in Brighton, Michigan and his cottage located in Charlevoix County, Michigan.
- Executive Order 2020-59 permits the operation of landscaping businesses within the State of Michigan, thereby permitting Plaintiff Cavanaugh to reopen his landscaping business, Cavanaugh’s Lawn Care LLC, subject to the mitigation measures.
- Executive Order 2020-59 permits individuals, including Plaintiffs Beemer and Cavanaugh, to engage in outdoor activities that include using boats with motors for fishing and other similar recreational purposes, consistent with remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household.
- Executive Order 2020-59 permits, insofar as is otherwise permissible under the law, the sale of guns from any store via remote order and curbside pick-up, and the sale of guns in-store from stores that sell necessary supplies as well as guns in their normal course of business, subject to the mitigation measures required by Sections 11 and 12 of the order. The order permits individuals, including Plaintiff Muise, to travel to and from such businesses.
- Executive Order 2020-59 exempts from penalty religious gatherings at private residences. Accordingly, Plaintiff Muise is not subject to penalty under the order for holding religious gatherings with his immediate family at his private residence located in Superior Township, Michigan.
AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, Robert Muise, who is also a named plaintiff in the case, commented:
“This is the second time we had to file a lawsuit to force the Governor’s hand and to cause her to backtrack on her draconian executive orders. Two weeks again we successfully defended a pro-lifer who was criminally cited for violating the Governor’s executive order by preaching and holding a pro-life sign on a public sidewalk outside of an abortion center in Detroit. The Governor was forced to issue guidance making clear that her orders do not prohibit outdoor, First Amendment activity. The criminal citation was dismissed as a result.
Now, just days before the hearing on our motion, the Governor once again blinked and released a new executive order that her attorneys agreed in a court filing grants the relief we were requesting in our motion. And while this new order does remedy the immediate harm, it does not end our lawsuit.”
AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi added:
“We cannot risk losing our liberty during this time of crisis. If we stop this lawsuit, these constantly shifting and irrational government edicts will become the ‘new norm’ every time we face a crisis. There is a long line of cases holding that just because a government official has voluntary ceased allegedly illegal conduct does not deprive the court of its power to hear and decide a case because not only is the official free to return to her old ways, but also the public has an interest in having the legality of the practices settled. That is precisely the situation we face here as the Governor continues to move the goalposts. This fight will continue.”