Dana Nessel
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

Whitmer is asking the court for clarity; Oakland County will continue enforcing mask use.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Sunday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will no longer be enforced through criminal prosecution.

The move comes after the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday that said Gov. Whitmer did not have the authority to issue or renew executive orders in response to the pandemic after April 30.

Nessel’s decision “is not binding on other law enforcement agencies or state departments with independent enforcement authority,” Nessel’s press secretary said in a statement posted to Twitter.

“It’s her fervent hope that people continue to abide by the measures that Governor Whitmer put in place – like wearing face masks, adhering to social distancing requirements and staying home when sick – since they’ve proven effective at saving lives,” the statement added.

Michigan’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled 7-0 that Whitmer had no authority under a 1976 emergency law to extend the state of emergency past the April 30 date without approval from the GOP-controlled Legislature.

The court also split 4-3 in ruling that it was unconstitutional for Whitmer to issue executive orders using the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act, because it “improperly delegated legislative powers to the executive branch”.

“Accordingly, the executive orders issued by the governor in response to the COVID-19 pandemic now lack any basis under Michigan law,” Justice Stephen Markman wrote in the majority opinion.

The governor has issued 123 executive orders since the April 30 date, allowing her to govern things like business and school closures without input from the legislature.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling, handed down by a narrow majority of Republican justices, is deeply disappointing, and I vehemently disagree with the court’s interpretation of the Michigan Constitution,” Gov. Whitmer’s statement read on Friday.

“It is important to note that this ruling does not take effect for at least 21 days, and until then, my emergency declaration and orders retain the force of law,” Whitmer’s statement read. “Furthermore, after 21 days, many of the responsive measures I have put in place to control the spread of the virus will continue under alternative sources of authority that were not at issue in today’s ruling.”

AG Nessel’s office, in accordance with Whitmer’s statement, initially told Whitmer’s team that the executive orders would stay in effect for 21 days, the period in which a party could seek reconsideration or a rehearing.

Gov. Whitmer, along with Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, filed a motion on Monday asking the court for clarity about when the court’s order goes into place.

The motion specifically asks the Supreme Court for 28 days until the order officially goes into place, which would be October 30, retroactive to the order date on October 2.

“The matter demands immediate consideration to enable an orderly transition to manage this ongoing crisis,” the motion reads. “The Governor and Director seek to ensure that some responsive measures can be placed under alternative executive authority and that the Governor and Legislature can work together to address many other pandemic- related matters that currently fall under executive orders.”

“We need this transition period to protect the 830,000 Michigan workers and families who are depending on unemployment benefits to pay their bills and put food on the table, and to protect Michiganders everywhere who are counting on their leaders to protect them,” Whitmer said in accordance with the motion. “The Supreme Court has spoken, and while I vehemently disagree with their ruling, I’m ready to work across the aisle with Republicans in the legislature where we can find common ground to slow the spread of the virus and rebuild our economy. It’s time for Republicans in the Legislature to get to work and start showing that they are taking this crisis seriously. They can start by canceling their October recess and getting back to work. Let’s work together and get this done.”

As stated in AG Nessel’s statement, local and state departments with independent enforcement authority can still enforce COVID-19 guidelines.

One day after the Supreme Court ruling, Oakland County Health Officer Leigh-Ann Stafford ordered the county’s residents must wear masks or facial coverings when they leave their homes. The order includes any indoor public space, and outdoors when unable to maintain at least six feet of distance from members of one’s household.

Macomb County will not follow Oakland County’s footsteps in ordering their residents to wear masks in public, but still strongly encourages people to follow restrictions to stop further spread.

Wayne County is reviewing the state’s Supreme Court ruling, and County Executive Warren C. Evans stated the county is “coming up with a comprehensive, long-term pandemic response.”

At last update, Michigan has seen 128,000+ confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6,816 confirmed deaths.

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