Michigan trade body files lawsuit over “unconstitutional” coronavirus measures

The Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan (ABC Michigan) has filed a lawsuit against Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, on the grounds that her Covid-19 safety orders and penalties are unconstitutional.

The complaint argues that builders are now subject to heavy penalties if they violate the orders, even though those penalties were not authorised by the state legislature. Ms Whitmer made the orders under laws giving the governor authority to respond to emergencies.

The suit relates to executive orders 96 and 97, passed by Whitmer on 21 May, which require construction firms to implement "strict safety measures".

The complaint notes that penalties for violating the executive orders have been increased from a potential 90-day jail sentence and $500 fine, to three years and $70,000. At the same time, the standard of proof for imposing the penalties has also been lowered from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "a preponderance of the evidence".

The lawsuit asks for an immediate declaratory judgment that the orders are unconstitutional.

Jeff Wiggins, ABC Michigan’s director, said: "Governor Whitmer’s approach threatens the safe jobs of Michigan workers who from the start have led the way, creating the gold standard of safe worksites during the Covid-19 public health crisis.

"(We) deserve safety and certainty from state government as they return to their jobsites. They also deserve to have a voice in the rules process. Instead, they are threatened by the arbitrary, unclear and unconstitutional enforcement methods set to be dispatched throughout the state to intimidate good, honest workers."

Non-profit organisation the Mackinac Centre for Public Policy and law firm Miller Johnson filed the lawsuit on behalf of ABC Michigan.

A press release from the Mackinac Centre argues that the governor has transferred enforcement power to "unelected bureaucrats".

Patrick Wright, the centre’s director, commented: "Through the legislature, the governor has been given some emergency powers. While the current situation is unprecedented and lives and livelihoods are at stake, the governor cannot single-handedly rewrite legislation to dramatically increase penalties apparently so as to stamp out dissent over the proper time and method of reopening society."

The suit was also filed by a local landscape contractor, DJ’s Lawn Service, which trades as DJ’s Landscape Management. As well Whitmer, the suit was filed against Dana Nessel, the state’s attorney general, and Robert Gordon, the director of health and human services.

Image: Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s governor (1st Lt. Andrew Layton/Public Domain)

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