Statement from Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband and Michigan U.S. Attorneys on Michigan Governor’s Decision to Adjust Reopening Plans

Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Eric Dreiband, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider for the Eastern District of Michigan, and U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge for the Western District of Michigan issued the following statement:

“Following action by the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Governor Whitmer provided much-needed relief for Michiganders by rescinding her executive orders which had required certain retail business to operate ‘by appointment only,’ prohibited other businesses that sued the governor from having the face-to-face meetings necessary to operate, even while practicing social distancing, and had required Michiganders to stay home.”

“We thank the governor for moving to Stage 4 of the Michigan Safe Start Plan, which better respects the constitutional liberties of Michiganders, especially when it comes to their ability to maintain their economic livelihood.  Some Michigan businesses, such as indoor gyms, hair salons, barbershops, indoor theaters and some similar venues remain closed.  Additionally, there is ongoing litigation challenging whether state law authorizes the governor’s COVID-19 orders.  The Department of Justice will continue to prioritize Attorney General Barr’s Memorandum regarding Balancing Public Safety with the Preservation of Civil Rights and to monitor the legality of the process of reopening in Michigan.”

Background

On Friday, May 29, 2020, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in a Michigan federal court in support of a lawsuit filed by seven businesses challenging the restrictions imposed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  That statement of interest explained that the governor’s COVID-19 orders, however well-intentioned, raised constitutional concerns by imposing what appeared to be arbitrary and unreasonable limits on how and ultimately whether certain businesses could operate in Michigan relative to other similarly situated businesses.  The statement of interest also explained that the federal Constitution provides for a cohesive national economy for all 50 states and all Americans and that the governor’s COVID-19 orders may be unduly interfering with interstate commerce.

Matthew Schneider, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, and Assistant Attorney General Dreiband, are overseeing the Justice Department’s effort to monitor state and local policies relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal case is Signature Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc., et al. v. Whitmer, No. 1:20-00360 and additional information about the department’s May 29 statement of interest can be found here:  https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/department-justice-files-statement-interest-support-businesses-suffering-arbitrary-and

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Author: June 2, 2020

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