So many non-attorneys are weighing in with their legal opinions regarding the court order issued yesterday in Clay County, Illinois and Governor Pritzker’s previous stay at home order. The most common sentiment is that the order only applies to the plaintiff, State Representative Darren Bailey. That is true from a pure black letter law standpoint; but I posit that the court order is much more impactful than the average person realizes. The physical proof of the severity of the order can be seen in Governor Pritzker’s press conference yesterday when he responded to questions about the court order issued by Judge McHaney in the Fourth Judicial Circuit. If the Governor really believed the court order only applied to one person, he surely would not have gotten as fiery as he did with his comments and he definitely would not be so vocal about appealing the decision. Governor Pritzker clearly had prepared remarks ready to go during his press conference knowing that an adverse ruling was possible, if not probable.
Governor Pritzker knows what most attorneys know: the ruling yesterday, while issued in favor of Representative Bailey, could apply to every citizen in Illinois. When a state court judge issues an order in Illinois, it in effect becomes a law. Meaning, Representative Bailey can walk out of his home for any or no reason and cannot be cited or arrested for failure to obey the Governor’s stay at home order. The order states: “Governor Jay Robert Pritzker . . . is hereby enjoined from in any way enforcing the March 20 Executive Order against Darren Bailey forcing him to isolate and quarantine in his home.” The order also states that Governor Jay Robert Pritzker is hereby enjoined from entering any further Executive Orders against Darren Bailey forcing him to isolate and quarantine in his home.”
Since no other court has issued a ruling on the Governor’s Executive Orders, Judge McHaney’s court order is the only ruling on the Executive Orders. Therefore, precedence has been set by the State court giving negative treatment to the Governor’s Executive Order on isolation and quarantine.
This means every person in Illinois could run to court right now and file a similar lawsuit against the Governor and use the court order to support his/her request for relief from the Governor’s Executive Order for isolation and quarantine. Realistically, will everyone in Illinois be granted the same relief? In the democratic stronghold of Cook County, the answer is most likely a “hell no.” In the other counties in Illinois, though, the circuit courts could well side with Judge McHaney’s order and issue similar rulings.
Any talk of whether the ruling only applies to one person is actually irrelevant because the matter is primed for appellate review as the state circuit courts will surely split on whether the Governor’s Executive Orders are valid. That is why Governor Pritzker is angry. Going up on appeal opens the door to endless possibilities. The Illinois Supreme Court could rule on the validity of all of the Governor’s Executive Orders. The Illinois Supreme Court is currently 4-3 democratic, but one swing vote could either cement or dismantle Governor Pritzker’s emergency powers.
Even though it will be some time before a final ruling on the validity of Governor Pritzker’s Executive Orders, one thing that all Illinois citizens should celebrate is that the constitutional fundamentals of checks and balances are being applied.