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Illinois COVID Court Battle: Another Rep. Files Suit, Attorney Prepares Appeal, Officials React

via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Attorney Thomas DeVore, who’s representing a southern Illinois state lawmaker and another from Rockford, is confident he’ll win legal challenges against Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order on two fronts. Meanwhile, the governor maintains the suit is “the height of recklessness,” and Congressman Rodney Davis is among those weighing in.

DeVore argued a lawsuit Monday on behalf of his client, Rep. Darren Bailey, who alleges the governor’s attempt to extend the stay-at-home order through May violates state law. He’s also sued for damages.

“When Darren and I talked about that, I said the important message to me as an attorney [is to] get the legal message out there,” DeVore explained. “What is the genesis of the authority that the governor is trying to wield?”

Judge Michael McHaney ruled in Bailey’s favor, granting a temporary restraining order against the governor’s latest stay-at-home order, scheduled to take effect May 1. That ruling applies only to Bailey. The Illinois Attorney General’s office almost immediately appealed, and a hearing is reportedly scheduled for next week.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Rep. John Cabello (R, Machesney Park) sued Pritzker over his use of emergency powers as well in Winnebago County Circuit Court. DeVore, who’s also representing Cabello, explained that suit could have wider consequences.

“That will be broader in scope, and that will be asking the court up there to address this issue not only on John as a citizen [sic], but every other citizen in the state that is similarly situated.”

The governor has not yet signed the latest stay-at-home order, but has called the representatives and their attorney “reckless.”

During a press briefing this week, Pritzker argued the lawsuits wrongly allege the governor’s office is using emergency powers with ill intent.

“[They’re saying] that somehow we’re intending to limit people’s civil liberties. That’s not the intention here. The intention in fact is to save people’s lives,” Pritzker said.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, U.S. Congressman Rodney Davis (R, Taylorville) weighed in on the court battles. Davis believes the decision could change how a new stay-at-home order is carried out.

“I think the administration is going to have to hopefully sit down with Republican legislators like Representative Bailey and the Republicans in the General Assembly,” Davis said. “Let’s start looking at a regional approach. Let’s start looking at success stories of how to fight this.”

Davis and others have argued in recent weeks for a regional reopening of the state when the coronavirus pandemic begins to subside, but Pritzker has so far dismissed the notion.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul Wednesday said the Illinois Supreme Court should take up the matter "immediately." His office filed a petition and opening brief in the Bailey v. Pritzker case.

"Earlier this week, the 4th Judicial Circuit Court held that the threat to public safety that is posed by COVID-19 is outweighed by Mr. Bailey’s interest in not complying with the Governor’s stay-at-home order," Raoul said in a statement.“We continue to assert that Mr. Bailey has failed to articulate the irreparable harm he is personally experiencing or how that harm outweighs the unprecedented threat to public health and safety."

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.
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