Detroit-based Butzel Long filed a lawsuit today against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, to define the limits of a state’s police power. The suit was filed on behalf of five of the firm’s clients.
A declaratory and injunctive relief is sought in violation of the constitutional rights of the following businesses. The plaintiffs requested a trial by jury.
- Signature Southeby’s International Realty Inc., a full-service residential brokerage in Birmingham;
- Executive Property Maintenance Inc., a Canton Township-based lawncare, snow and ice maintenance, fertilization, property maintenance, planting, softscape, hardscape, design and build, irrigation, and water feature services company for commercial, municipal, and residential clients;
- Intraco Corp. Inc. in Troy, a diversified exporter of architectural and automotive glass, automotive chemicals, and other goods;
- Casite Intraco in Troy, a distributer of engine oil, fuel additives, and other after-market products for automobiles; and
- Bahash and Co., doing business as Hillsdale Jewelers, a storefront jewelry retailer that offers jewelry repair services in Hillsdale.
“Based on speculative modeling on the infectiousness and lethality of a new coronavirus, Gov. Whitmer has issued executive orders that have shuttered civil society, placed 10 million people under house arrest, and taken jobs away from nearly 1.2 million people, all without due process of law,” the complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief reads. “The governor has not disclosed the data or methodology used to create the modeling that purportedly justifies this extreme action.”
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court Western District of Michigan Southern Division. It was filed by firm attorneys Daniel J. McCarthy and Joseph E. Richotte.
In addition, the complaint cites that Whitmer has suspended the Freedom of Information Act through June 4 through Executive Order 2020-38, preventing independent assessment of whether the modeling used to justify locking the state down is reliable, according to the lawsuit.
In another instance, the complaint states: “Although Michigan, like all States in the Union, is expressly guaranteed a republican form of government under Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, the Governor has unilaterally suspended civil liberties and announced that this state of affairs will continue even over the Legislature’s objection. When the Legislature announced bills to limit unilateral action and ensure constitutional government remains intact, Governor Whitmer said, ‘I’m not going to sign any bill that takes power away from me or any future governor.’” In addition, the suit states: “Government by executive order — over 50 of them so far — stirs echoes of royal prerogative.”
While Whitmer’s initial executive order was premised on the need to flatten the curve of the virus to avoid overwhelming the state’s hospitals and health care centers, the curve has been flattened, but since then Whitmer has issued stricter and confusing executive orders, the plaintiffs say, that interfere with their constitutional rights.
The plaintiffs say that under threat of criminal penalties, they have been forced to close or significantly restrict their businesses, depriving them of their liberty and property interests without due process. Also, Whitmer has allowed and is still allowing other businesses deemed critical to stay open without offering justification, the plaintiffs argue.
While critical businesses must adhere to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on social distancing, the plaintiffs say they are fully capable of adhering to these same guidelines if allowed to re-open.
Butzel Long was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has offices in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing, Ann Arbor, New York, Washington, D.C., and an alliance office in Beijing. It is a member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms.