The Department of Justice is supporting Illinois state Rep. Darren Bailey’s lawsuit over state Governor J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, while also warning Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti against a longer-term isolation order.
On Friday, the DOJ filed a statement of interest supporting Republican Bailey’s lawsuit, which challenges whether Illinois’ Democratic governor can keep the state’s lockdown order going past the 30 days allowed by state law, according to Fox News.
‘In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of Illinois has, over the past two months, sought to rely on authority under the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act to impose sweeping limitations on nearly all aspects of life for citizens of Illinois, significantly impairing in some instances their ability to maintain their economic livelihoods,’ the agency said in a statement, according to Fox News.
The DOJ intervened in Illinois state Rep. Darren Bailey’s (left) lawsuit over state Governor J.B. Pritzker’s (right) stay-at-home order Friday
Bailey (left) filed the lawsuit claiming Pritzker violated Illinois residents’ civil rights with his coronavirus stay-at-home order. Bailey is seen here on May 20, refusing to wear a mask at the Illinois House of Representatives, before his colleagues voted to kick him out of the session
Bailey (right) is seen, the next day, on May 21, back at the Illinois House of Representatives meeting, this time wearing a mandated mask
The DOJ also said that ‘According to the lawsuit, the Governor’s actions are not authorized by state law, as they extend beyond the 30-day time period imposed by the Illinois legislature for the Governor’s exercise of emergency powers granted under the Act.’
Bailey had filed the lawsuit in April, claiming that Pritzker had exceeded his authority and violated Illinois residents’ civil rights with his coronavirus stay-at-home order.
A judge granted Bailey, a farmer representing a rural district, a personal temporary restraining order, blocking Illinois from enforcing the stay-at-home order against him, making him the only person besides essential workers exempt from the order meant to keep residents safe and stop the spread of coronavirus, according to the Washington Post.
Following the judge’s order, Pritzker said during his daily press briefing that ‘It’s insulting, it’s dangerous, and people’s safety and health has now been put at risk,’ KMOV reported.
‘There may be people who contract coronavirus as a result of what Darren Bailey has done now.’
Bailey is now seeking to have the ruling extended to all Illinois residents.
There have been more than 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,525 deaths across the state as of Thursday.
The civil rights angle allowed Pritzker to move Bailey’s lawsuit from state to federal court, which presides over issues involving the US Constitution, according to NBC Chicago.
The move was made on Thursday, the day before a hearing was scheduled in state court.
Pritzker moved Bailey’s case from a state to federal court, but DOJ Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband (pictured) said the case needed to be heard in a state court
Pritzker is pictured here on April 17, touring a coronavirus alternate care facility in Chicago
Protestors are seen in Springfield, Illinois, clamoring for the reopening of the state Wednesday
Dreiband also wrote a letter warning Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (pictured) against the ‘arbitrary and unlawful’ extension of the county’s lockdown
Of the move, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement: ‘The Governor of Illinois owes it to the people of Illinois to allow his state’s courts to adjudicate the question of whether Illinois law authorizes orders he issued to respond to COVID-19.’
Dreiband also noted that ‘Under our system, all public officials, including governors, must comply with the law, especially during times of crisis. The Department of Justice remains committed to defending the rule of law and the American people at all times, especially during this difficult time as we deal with COVID-19 pandemic.’
‘However well-intended they may be, the executive orders appear to reach far beyond the scope of the 30-day emergency authority granted to the Governor under Illinois law,’ Steven Weinhoeft, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said in a statement to the Associated Press.
‘Even during times of crisis, executive actions undertaken in the name of public safety must be lawful.’
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s spokesperson said in a statement to NBC Chicago Friday that his office ‘will continue to defend the governor’s constitutional and statutory right to act to protect the health and safety of all Illinois residents.’
In addition to intervening on the Illinois case, Dreiband also wrote to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat, and Los Angeles County’s director of public health, Barbara Ferrer, saying that the DOJ is worried about the city pursuing ‘an arbitrary and heavy-handed approach’ to stay-at-home orders.
‘Reports of your recent public statements indicate that you suggested the possibility of long-term lockdown of the residents in the city and county of Los Angeles, regardless of the legal justification for such restrictions,’ Dreiband wrote according to the Los Angeles Times. ‘Any such approach may be both arbitrary and unlawful.’
The letter continued, stating that while the DOJ ‘recognizes and appreciates the duty that you have to protect the health and safety of the residents of the Los Angeles area’ it’s true that ‘Governmental authority, however, is not limitless, and must be exercised reasonably.’
‘Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights,’ the letter also noted, according to Fox News.
Earlier in May, Ferrer had suggested that Los Angeles County’s stay-at-home order would likely be extended for a few more months – potentially through the summer – although Garcetti has been slowly loosening restrictions, allowing curbside pickups at businesses and reopening beaches and hiking trails among other outdoors activities.
Dreiband’s letter to Garcetti and intervening in the Illinois case come on the same day that the White House’s coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington DC were coronavirus hotspots.