Republican congressman Paul Mitchell sues Gov. Whitmer over handling of coronavirus
Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press
LANSING – A Republican congressman sued Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in federal court Monday, alleging she has violated the constitution in her management of the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden Township, said he wants a judge to “define the limits of a state’s police power.”
He sued Whitmer in federal court in Grand Rapids.
“Michiganders can and do take reasonable, private action to protect themselves from infection without the need to shut down civil society,” Mitchell said in the lawsuit.
“Given that the projected surge has not occurred, there is no basis, either legally or factually, to continue any further mandatory lockdown orders.”
The suit alleges violations of the U.S. and Michigan constitutions and state law.
Lavora Barnes, chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party, called the suit a “political stunt” and “a shining example of how the GOP is failing the people of Michigan.”
Michigan has reported more than 4,000 deaths from COVID-19, the third-highest number in the nation, and about 44,000 total cases. Though the growth in cases has slowed, Whitmer warns that Michigan is at risk of a second surge if it reopens the economy too quickly.
Whitmer has responded by closing schools, bars, many other businesses, and restricting restaurants to carryout and delivery service. Michigan remains under a stay-at-home order until at least May 15, with residents advised to wear face masks when in enclosed public spaces.
The economy has come to a near halt, and more than 1 million residents have sought unemployment benefits.
Construction and some other activities are to resume Thursday, with precautions.
Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown declined to comment. “Our practice is not to comment on pending litigation,” she said.
Robert Gordon, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, is also named as a defendant.
Mitchell said he has osteoarthritis, which results in painful bone-on-bone contact in his knee, but has been unable to get medical treatment because of Whitmer’s orders, which have restricted nonemergency surgeries.
“The right to obtain medical care is a protected liberty interest,” he said.
The suit alleges violations of Mitchell’s rights under the U.S. constitution to self-government and due process. He said the stay-at-home order violates his constitutional rights to travel, exercise political speech and freedom of association by meeting and speaking with constituents, and engage in commerce. He also claims the stay-at-home order is unconstitutionally vague.
Mitchell also alleges the order violates the separation of powers clause of the Michigan constitution by shutting out the Legislature. He alleges Whitmer violated the Michigan Emergency Management Act on Thursday when she ended Michigan’s state of emergency and declared a new emergency, just as legislative approval would have been required to extend the duration of the earlier state of emergency.
The GOP-controlled state House and Senate are also planning a lawsuit over Whitmer’s use of executive powers.