State Policy Network
Michigan Supreme Court rules governor’s extended use of emergency powers is unconstitutional

Thanks to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Michigan Governor will now have to work with the state legislature to issue policies related to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a unanimous decision, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the Michigan Governor’s attempt to extend the state of emergency past April 30, 2020 is unconstitutional. The court also said in a 4-3 ruling that the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945, which the governor used to justify unilateral control for an indefinite period, is unconstitutional.

The Michigan Governor first declared a state of emergency in March 2020. When that state of emergency expired on April 30, 2020, the governor unilaterally extended her emergency powers, without the consent of the Michigan Legislature. This removed essential checks and balances in the Great Lake State. It also left millions of Michiganders without a say in how their state responds to the coronavirus.

That say was important, especially since the governor’s orders were some of the strictest in the country. Many were arbitrary and inconsistent, as the Mackinac Center pointed out in their clever cartoon series. The stay-at-home order shut down businesses and left many people without a way to provide for their families. Other orders closed churches, salons, and gyms. One order even made it illegal to travel to another person’s home.

The governor also banned all “non-essential” medical practices. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging this order on behalf of three medical practices and one patient, who were unable to provide or receive care. Plaintiffs Grand Health Partners, Wellston Medical Center, and Primary Health Services were unable to see patients that desperately needed treatment. Plaintiff Jeffery Gulick had to cope with excruciating pain after the order forced him to postpone knee surgery. The case made its way to the Michigan Supreme Court in September.

On October 2, power shifted back into the hands of the people. The court ruled in Mackinac’s favor, asserting the Michigan Governor’s use of emergency powers is illegal. Mackinac’s president, Joseph G. Lehman, noted:

“This victory restores the people’s constitutional right to meaningful representation. The governor does not have unilateral power for an unlimited time. Now she must include the Legislature in confronting the pandemic. It’s possible to protect lives without depriving the people of fundamental constitutional rights.”

Congratulations to the Mackinac Center for restoring representative government in Michigan and giving millions of Michiganders a voice in COVID-19 decisions!

Related commentary

Governor’s Use of Emergency Powers Declared Illegal, Unconstitutional
Statement from Mackinac Center on Michigan Supreme Court victory

What Does The Michigan Supreme Court Decision Mean?
Mackinac Center video

A History of Michigan’s Controversial 1945 Emergency Powers Law
Mackinac Center policy brief

An End to Michigan’s Endless Emergency
Wall Street Journal editorial citing the Mackinac Center

States: Michigan
Organization: State Policy Network