Advance Notice: Briefs

House Dems call lawsuit filed by Republican leaders ‘political theater’

By: - May 13, 2020 1:30 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

The House Democratic caucus filed an amicus brief in opposition of the Republican leaders’ lawsuit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, calling the suit “political theater” and “an effort to advance a partisan agenda.” 

The GOP-controlled Legislature sued the governor on May 6 saying she has overstepped her executive authority under the Emergency Management Act and the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Republican leaders argue that Whitmer’s extension of the state’s emergency declaration without approval from the Legislature is unconstitutional and violates the state’s separation of powers. 

In the amicus brief, the House Democratic Caucus said the actions led by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) do not represent the position of the entire Legislature.

“This lawsuit isn’t about the separation of powers and does not represent the Legislature as a whole. The lawsuit represents the interests of the Republican leadership and their special interest patrons,” according to a statement released by the caucus Tuesday. “Having failed to achieve their political objectives through the normal legislative process, the Republicans are now asking the judiciary to intervene and cast aside our Constitution’s carefully crafted design.”

Both the Emergency Management Act of 1976 and the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 were put in place by the Legislature.

“It is Plaintiffs’ position — and not that of the Governor — that undermines the authority of the Legislature and threatens the constitutional separation of powers,” according to the amicus brief. 

House Democratic Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) said the lawsuit subverts the power of the legislature by “distorting” the language of the emergency acts.

“Time and again, the Republican leadership in the Legislature have engaged in partisan political theater, gamesmanship and attempted power grabs,” Greig said. “While House Democrats are focused on the response to the pandemic, Republicans continue playing politics and squandering time, energy and funds that could be spent on the state’s response to COVID-19,” Greig added.

Whitmer’s legal team also commented on the lawsuit on Tuesday, calling it a “power grab cloaked in the fineries of unfounded legal reasoning.”

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.