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Illinois Supreme Court grants stay in Clay County challenge to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus orders

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 8/11/2020 By Jamie Munks, Chicago Tribune
a man wearing a suit and tie: Gov. J.B. Pritzker prepares to speak at a news conference July 23, 2020, at the University of Chicago's Harper Center. © Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Gov. J.B. Pritzker prepares to speak at a news conference July 23, 2020, at the University of Chicago's Harper Center.

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the state’s request for a stay in a downstate legal challenge to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus-related executive orders.

The state’s highest court also indicated it would consider the state’s request that it determine whether Pritzker has the power to issue continued emergency orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pritzker’s emergency orders have been subject to legal challenges by religious groups, businesses and state lawmakers. In the Clay County case, Republican Rep. Darren Bailey, of Xenia, sued Pritzker over his statewide mandates related to COVID-19, alleging they are an overreach of his powers under state law.

Courts have largely upheld Pritzker’s executive actions, with the exception of Clay County Circuit Judge Michael McHaney, who ruled last month that the governor’s powers to issue emergency orders ended July 2.

McHaney on Friday ordered Pritzker to appear before him on Friday to show why he should not be held in indirect civil contempt and sanctioned for his “willful disregard” of the court, noting that the “failure to appear may result in a warrant for arrest.”

The Illinois attorney general’s office on Monday filed a motion requesting that the Illinois Supreme Court exercise supervisory authority “on an emergency basis to immediately stay the contempt hearing.”

That motion also requested the Illinois Supreme Court “answer the underlying legal question raised by this case,” whether the governor acted within the scope of his powers under the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act and the Illinois Constitution in issuing disaster proclamations and executive orders throughout the course of the pandemic.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in the governor’s favor to stay all proceedings in that case “pending resolution of the motion for supervisory order.”

Last week, Pritzker called McHaney’s rulings against him “ridiculous,” and noted Will County Circuit Judge John Anderson in his ruling in a separate case called the Clay County judge’s findings “bereft of any meaningful legal analysis.”

Anderson ruled against a group of landlords who challenged Pritzker’s pandemic-driven moratorium on evictions, concluding that “the governor’s disaster declarations and executive orders pertaining to COVID-19 remain in full force and effect.”

jmunks@chicagotribune.com

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