Case postponed

Rep. Darren Bailey, left, R-Xenia, and his attorney, Thomas DeVore, speak to reporters July 2 outside the Clay County Courthouse in Louisville after a judge there ruled that all of Gov. JB Pritzker’s executive orders since April 8 pertaining to the novel coronavirus pandemic are void because he exceeded his authority when he used his emergency powers for more than 30 days.

Friday’s scheduled hearing for Bailey lawsuit postponed

A hearing in downstate Rep. Darren Bailey’s lawsuit challenging the governor’s authority to issue consecutive executive orders was not held Friday as scheduled.

Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney’s July 2 ruling in the Xenia Republican’s case failed to address one issue — whether the COVID-19 pandemic met the definition of a disaster in Gov. JB Pritzker’s April 30 state of emergency.

Thoms DeVore, Bailey’s attorney, requested the judge rule on that question without a trial. McHaney declined, and now will await DeVore’s written response to the state’s call for the matter to be dismissed.

In a court document filed July 7, the attorney general’s office, which is representing Pritzker, called this last active issue “moot” because any ruling “would not have a practical effect.”

The points raised in DeVore’s arguments that COVID-19 was not a disaster as specified in the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act were “incorporated” into the two complaints Bailey won, the office added.

McHaney nullified all of the governor’s executive orders related to COVID-19 made after April 8. He also decided that the Illinois Department of Public Health has the “supreme authority” to close businesses and restrict residents’ activities in a public health crisis.

Pritzker’s office, Bailey and legal experts disagree on the scope of that order — some assert it affects only Clay County while others maintain it applies statewide.

Bailey, in an interview with Capitol News Illinois on Thursday, said the court set a deadline of July 22 for DeVore to file a response to the state’s request.

The representative said he will be adding a new complaint to his lawsuit on the same day.

Illinois Republican Party, Right to Life ask to combine lawsuits

The Chicago-based legal aid foundation representing the Illinois Republican Party and Right to Life advocacy group asked a federal court Wednesday for permission to combine the two cases.

Consolidation is logical, Liberty Justice Center Attorney Daniel Suhr wrote in a filing, because “the legal issues are nearly identical” in both cases.

The Republican Party and Illinois Right to Life organization filed separate lawsuits on June 15 and June 23, respectively, claiming Gov. JB Pritzker’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people is unconstitutional.

That restriction, implemented to combat the COVID-19 spread in the state, included an exception for houses of worship and seemingly did not apply to Black Lives Matter protests, Suhr argued in both cases. Under the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause, restrictions should apply to all groups uniformly or not at all.

U.S. District Court judges in both lawsuits denied the GOP’s and anti-abortion organization’s request for an order temporarily suspending enforcement of Pritzker’s cap on gathering attendance.

In part, Judge Sara Ellis ruled in the Republican Party’s case that its “interest in gathering as a political party ... does not outweigh the governor’s interest in protecting the health of Illinois’ residents during this unprecedented public health crisis.”

Judge John Tharp Jr., who presided in the Illinois Right to Life case, called Ellis’ opinion “persuasive” and did not add any details to his own.

According to a document Suhr filed, the attorney general’s office, which is representing Pritzker in the case, does not object to his motion to combine the two lawsuits.

— By Rebecca Anzel, Capitol News Illinois

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