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Michigan Citizens Sue Democratic Governor for Violating Constitutional Rights During Pandemic


Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has figured into the national conversation on a few occasions during the coronavirus pandemic due to high-profile clashes with President Donald Trump on the subject of emergency medical supplies. Now Michigan citizens are accusing her of hammering ants, so to speak.

Four Michiganders claim Whitmer violated their First and Fifth Amendment rights with an executive order that went as far as to ban travel between homes within the state. The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

The plaintiffs believe that, at worst, their constitutional rights have been violated and that, at best, the stay-at-home executive order—a “temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life”–is filled with cognitive dissonance.

Attorney David Helm compared the executive order to “taking a sledge hammer to an ant,” in an interview with local news outlet Fox 2 Detroit.

“Our position is, ordering businesses to shut down, preventing residents and citizens from accessing their second homes, within the state is essentially a taking and they need to be compensated for it,” he said. “We are not arguing for political dissidence or any sort of protest. What we are saying, is that people have the right to associate with their friends and family. And that that is being unjustly infringed.”

The plaintiffs acknowledge that Whitmer’s order was in the public interest while also arguing that infringed on constitutional rights.

“Notwithstanding their legitimate public purpose, Governor Whitmer ’s Orders halted all economic activity and violates fundamental rights protected by the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Michigan,” the lawsuit said.

But Helm said that it makes little sense to let people to go to the store but bar them from using a fishing boat. He also noted that essential businesses, where a lot of people gather, can remain open while a one-man tree trimming operation has to stay home.

One of Helm’s clients is Contender’s Tree and Lawn Specialists, Inc. business owner Steve Martinko. Martinko believes his business can safely operate amid the pandemic, but the business is not classified as essential and is, therefore, closed. The lawsuit says the business and Martinko’s laid off employees have been irreparably harmed.

Plaintiff Jerry Frost complained that, under the governor’s executive order, he can neither visit his girlfriend of 14 years nor his friends and family members.

Plaintiff, JERRY FROST resides in Roscommon County, Michigan. Mr. FROST lives alone but has a longtime girlfriend of 14 years who resides nearby. Yet under 2020-42, because Mr. FROST does not reside in the same household as his girlfriend, he cannot visit her or vice versa.

Mr. FROST also has other friends and family in the area however under 2020-42, because Mr. FROST does not reside in the same household with all of his friends and family, he is not permitted to visit them or vice versa.

The plaintiffs are seeking a temporary restraining order, “enjoining Defendant from enforcing Executive Orders 2020-21 and 2020-42 as a violation of Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.” They also seek compensation for the “regulatory taking of their Physical Location and Tangible Property,” and a permanent injunction against the enforcement of Whitmer’s orders.

Law&Crime reached out to Helm for comment.

Lawsuit against Gretchen Whitmer by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via Bill Pugliano/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.