Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer isn’t too happy nowadays. Days after the state’s Supreme Court ruled that she exceeded her authority with her numerous COVID-19 restrictions, the attorney general announced that they would no longer enforce Whitmer’s order. It is yet another blow to the governor’s efforts to keep her excessive rules in action and a victory for those who have grown weary of them.
“In light of the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday, the Attorney General will no longer enforce the governor’s executive orders through criminal prosecution,” said Ryan Jarvi, press secretary for the attorney general in a statement.
He continued, explaining that “her decision is not binding on other law enforcement agencies or state departments with independent enforcement authority.” He added, “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.”
Despite no longer enforcing the restrictions, Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office still defended Whitmer’s orders. “If it weren’t for the governor’s actions, countless more of our friends, family, and neighbors would have been lost to COVID-19. We can respect both the court’s decision and the advice of medical experts by continuing with these important measures voluntarily,” they insisted.
During the outbreak’s early months, other law enforcement agencies stated that they would not strictly enforce the governor’s stay-at-home orders or other measures. “While we understand her desire to protect the public, we question some restrictions she has imposed as overstepping her executive authority,” four sheriffs wrote in a joint statement in April. “She has created a vague framework of emergency laws that only confuse Michigan citizens.”
Whitmer lamented the court’s decision, calling it “deeply disappointing” in a statement. “With this decision, Michigan will become the sole outlier at a time when the Upper Peninsula is experiencing rates of COVID infection not seen in our state since April,” she noted. “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.”
Tiffany Brown, the governor’s press secretary, published another statement on Sunday, indicating that Whitmer hoped to work with the Republican-controlled state legislature “to find common ground.” However, she did state that the governor “won’t let partisan politics get in the way of doing what’s necessary to keep people safe and save lives.”
Prior to the Supreme Court handing down its ruling, Whitmer had extended the state of emergency orders through Oct. 27 despite the decrease in the number of new cases since the measures were put into place. Republicans in the state legislature lauded the decision. Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield said, “The governor had no right to extend the state of emergency over the Legislature’s objection. Our Constitution matters, and this was a big win for our democratic process.”
After the court made its ruling, Whitmer indicated that she would leverage other areas of the law to keep her restrictions in place. However, her office has not yet indicated how she planned to make this happen.
Many Michigan residents took issue with Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions, arguing that they were too excessive. Her rules included bans on the purchase of certain products and limits on the number of people a resident could have in their home at one time.
Residents who resented Whitmer’s measures seem to have scored a victory. But if Whitmer’s statements are any indication, the battle over the restrictions is not over yet.