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Illinois Government Responses to Covid-19 Updated 8/14/2020
Today’s update discusses:
- Law enforcement receiving mixed messages on ability to transfer inmates
- Governor initiating ad campaign to encourage wearing of masks
- Numerous lawsuits against Governor (from bowling to schools) get varying responses from courts
- Assaulting a merchant who’s enforcing healthcare protocols carries aggravated battery charge
- Chicago Republicans challenging vote-by-mail program
- Joint Committee on Administrative Rules supporting the governor
- As previously reported, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) was not accepting new inmate transfers due to the ongoing pandemic and the risk of spreading COVID-19 among prisoners. However, after Governor Pritzker issued a new Executive Order, IDOC agreed to resume accepting new inmates as long as health conditions have been met. According to the Executive Order, IDOC will have the sole discretion in accepting transfers after the individual has been quarantined for 14 days and has tested negative before the transfer takes place.
- Last week Governor Pritzker announced a $5 million ad campaign aimed at encouraging the wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The ad campaign, pushing the phrase “it only works if your wear it,” is targeted to reach areas of the state with increased cases of COVID-19. According to the governor, he is also open to working on a mask mandate rule and “considering a fine” for those who “are absolutely refusing” to wear a mask in public.
- As previously reported, Illinois bowling alley owners filed suit against Governor Pritzker, challenging the limits put on bowling alleys once they reopened. (Bowling alleys were only able to reopen with a 50-person capacity limit.) The Illinois State Bowling Proprietors Association stated that Pritzker’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has agreed to reclassify bowling as an indoor sport, which allows bowling centers to operate at the lesser of 200 people or 50% building occupancy. This compromise resolved the pending lawsuit against the governor. This week Governor Pritzker signed into law Senate Bill 471, which makes assault on a merchant following healthcare protocols an aggravated battery. The law is intended to enforce the importance of respecting and protecting those who are working during the pandemic.
- The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules supported Governor Pritzker’s emergency rules that require businesses to enforce mandatory mask requirements, despite creating controversy with businesses and Republicans in the Legislature. The rules require businesses to have employees and customers wear face masks while indoors. After multiple warnings, they could face a fine and/or a Class A Misdemeanor.
- As previously reported, in July Governor Pritzker sought approval from the Sangamon County Circuit Court to require children to wear face masks while in school in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, some schools are refusing to comply, stating that the governor no longer has the authority to require such a rule. A similar dispute is in Clay County where a family is challenging the school reopening guidelines. Attorney Tom DeVore asked the Illinois Supreme Court to consolidate the cases, which the court did on Tuesday. This decision will move the lawsuit with Representative Darren Bailey to Sangamon County and consolidate it with other cases challenging the governor’s authority.
- A previous update reported that the Village of Orland Park (near Chicago) and other suburban communities brought suit against Governor Pritzker asking to have the governor’s Executive Orders overturned. Last week, however, a U.S. District Judge denied the request, rejecting the arguments in the complaint and refusing to issue an injunction against Governor Pritzker. Judge Wood stated “. . . given the extraordinary, ongoing public-health threat posed by COVID-19, this Court concludes that any infringement of Plaintiffs’ federal constitutional rights would be permissible under Jacobson.” The Order further supports the governor by stating “. . . the Governor makes a compelling case that holding individualized pre-deprivation hearings for each affected person and business would overwhelm the administrative system and cripple the state’s ability to act quickly and decisively to contain a rapidly spreading disease.”
- Following the ongoing lawsuit between Representative Bailey and Governor Pritzker, Bailey filed a petition with a Clay County Judge last Wednesday asking the court to hold Governor Pritzker in civil contempt for issuing multiple Executive Orders in response to the ongoing pandemic, an action that supposedly goes against the Clay County Judge’s Order stating that the governor no longer had that kind of authority. Last Friday the Judge agreed and ordered Governor Pritzker to appear this Friday to fight the contempt motion and “show cause why he should not be held in indirect civil contempt and sanctioned for his willful disregard” of the court’s order. Earlier this week, however, the Governor reached out to the Illinois Supreme Court, asking it to exercise its supervisory authority and “immediately stay the contempt hearing set for August 14, 2020, pending the resolution of this motion.” On Tuesday, the Illinois Supreme Court exercised its authority to stay the contempt hearing.
- As previously reported, a group of landlords from Chicago and surrounding areas sued Governor Pritzker for overstepping his authority when he issued continuous eviction moratoriums. Last week, however, a Will County Judge ruled that Governor Pritzker does in fact have the authority to prohibit evictions for as long as he deems necessary during the ongoing pandemic. The Order states, “the Governor has broad discretion here” and “the Court will not micromanage the Governor’s placement of weight on one policy concern over another, or one preventative measure over another.” In addition, the Will County Judge went on to acknowledge and reject the rulings that have taken place in Clay County, stating that they are “bereft of meaningful legal analysis, and are wholly unpersuasive for that reason.” Ultimately, the judge rejected the plaintiffs’ motion for temporary injunction and held that the “Governor’s disaster declarations and executive orders pertaining to COVID-19 remain in full force and effect.”
- Despite Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order 50 (mentioned earlier in this post) allowing the IDOC to resume transfers of inmates from jails to prisons if certain health conditions have been met, a Logan County Judge decided in favor of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association when he ruled, “IDOC does not have authority under the Illinois Uniform Code of Corrections to deny acceptance of a person committed to IDOC by the courts of this State.” The court then issued a preliminary injunction “ordering that the Illinois Department of Corrections. . . accept transfer from any Sheriff of all offenders for whom the IDOC is statutorily required to accept.”
- In July, Thomas DeVore filed a complaint on behalf of Roni Quinn against the Quincy Public School Board of Education over the face mask requirement and temperature checks required for in-person learning. An Adams County Judge, however, dismissed the lawsuit, stating that the school board has the power to adopt rules such as this when it is necessary to protect the health and safety of the students and staff.
- A federal lawsuit was filed this week by Chicago-area Republicans challenging Governor Pritzker’s vote-by-mail program. The lawsuit alleges that the program is a “partisan voting scheme that is designed to harvest Democratic ballots, dilute Republican ballots, and, if the election still doesn’t turn out the way he wants it, to generate enough Democratic ballots after election day to sway the result.” The Cook County Republican Party asks the court to enjoin Defendants from enforcing the law allowing mail-in voting as it allegedly violates the right to vote and to award Plaintiff its costs and attorneys’ fees.
- Another lawsuit previously filed against Governor Pritzker is facing a Motion to Dismiss. Attorney Alan Bruggeman filed a lawsuit against the governor on behalf of business owners impacted by the governor’s COVID-19 response restrictions. The lawsuit, which alleges a Fifth Amendment “takings” theory, alleges that the business owners are entitled to just compensation because Governor Pritzker’s Executive Orders constituted a taking under the Constitution. The state, however, has filed a Motion to Dismiss stating that the plaintiff’s claims are barred in federal court, the plaintiffs have not pled a takings claim under the Fifth Amendment, and that the plaintiffs failed to state a substantive and procedural due process claim. The plaintiffs have until August 31 to respond.