SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — In court documents filed late Monday night, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office asked the Fifth District Appellate Court to “reverse and vacate” a Clay County Circuit Court’s ruling and “dissolve the temporary restraining order” that now poses an obstacle to Governor Pritzker’s executive powers.
The state is expected to file its legal brief for the appellate court on Wednesday.
State Representative Darren Bailey (R-Louisville), a small town family farmer and first-term House Republican, declared a legal victory against Governor Pritzker on the front steps of the Clay County courthouse Monday afternoon.
“Unfortunately, this only applies to me at the moment,” Rep. Bailey said, “But it’s going to apply to you soon.”
In his arguments, Bailey’s attorney compared Pritzker’s use of executive powers to that of a distant monarch ruling over his subjects with executive fiat.
Several of Bailey’s hometown supporters cheered and said they plan to file similar lawsuits to challenge Pritzker’s executive powers. The judge ruled Pritzker exceeded his constitutional powers when he extended his disaster proclamation beyond the first 30-day limit.
In a national television appearance on the Today Show Tuesday morning, Pritzker said, “The suit itself was extraordinarily irresponsible. This state representative was looking to gain some celebrity for himself. He took it to a local court, to a local elected judge, and got the ruling that I think he knew he was going to get in that courtroom.”
“There were 90 people I’m told who were in that courtroom, all of whom seemed to be associated with that state rep,” Pritzker said. “They even seemed to have laughed when our Attorney General’s representatives talked about the fact that people will die if we lift this stay at home order. It’s abominable. It’s disgusting, frankly.”
At the outset of the court argument, Judge Michael McHaney told the attorneys, “I’m just trying to dispel the notion that if I grant this [temporary restraining order], we’re gonna kill millions of people.” Some people in the audience laughed.
Later, the judge, appearing skeptical of the public health reporting practices, asked, “With respect to these statistics, isn’t it true that if I die in a car wreck and I have tested positive, my cause of death is COVID-19?”
The audience again laughed when the lawyer from the Attorney General’s office responded, “I don’t know.”
The government lawyer started to describe the number of fatalities of people in the state who died of COVID-19 on that day, and referenced the dire warnings from public health officials who have argued that the order to stay home has saved tens of thousands of lives.
When the audience again laughed, the attorney interjected, “It’s no joke.”
Judge McHaney agreed that the circumstances were no laughing matter, and responded, “At a recent press conference, this Governor was asked about easing restrictions in counties that don’t have COVID. His response was laughter.”
While some media outlets have pondered legal theories to suggest the judge’s order might somehow eventually apply to the entire state, when asked on Tuesday morning what implications Monday’s court ruling would have moving forward, the Governor said, “It only applies to this one individual, this state representative who filed his suit.”
The race to overturn the ruling is already underway, and the Pritzker administration is reviewing a number of other options to explore how they can continue to exercise the state’s quarantine powers to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
“We believe we’ll be able to get it overturned, but it’s extraordinarily irresponsible,” Pritzker said. “It sends exactly the wrong message. We are just now beginning to overcome our challenges with regard to COVID-19. We’re reaching a peaking time period. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to move down the other side of it in Illinois, but it doesn’t happen if you remove all the restrictions and everybody goes about their business. The projections are that thousands and thousands of people will die, and many tens of thousands will get sick if we remove the stay at home now.”