The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Friday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lacked the authority after April 30 to declare a state of emergency under the 1976 Emergency Management Act.
The court also ruled that the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act (EPGA) was unconstitutional, and that it did not provide a basis for Gov. Whitmer to exercise emergency powers.
The EPGA previously allowed Michigan governors to declare a state of emergency under what the act describes as a “great public crisis.”
Gov. Whitmer has been using both the 1976 and 1945 acts to declare a state of emergency in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We conclude that the EPGA is in violation of the Constitution of our state because it purports to delegate to the executive branch the legislative powers of state government...and to allow the exercise of such powers indefinitely,” the decision said.
While the court ruled unanimously against Gov. Whitmer’s use of the 1976 act, the court was split with a majority of 4-3 on the decision regarding the 1945 EPGA.
The court specified that they were not seeking to determine if Gov. Whitmer’s orders were effective or reasonable, instead looking to decide if the power Gov. Whitmer asserted in issuing her executive orders was legitimate.
“The EPGA does not allow for declarations of emergency to confront public-health events like pandemics,” the decision said.
Gov. Whitmer released a statement via email shortly after the court’s decision.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling, handed down by a narrow majority of Republican justices, is deeply disappointing, and I vehemently disagree with the court’s interpretation of the Michigan Constitution,” the release said.
Whitmer also pointed out that with the court’s decision, Michigan will become the only US state without some form of emergency declaration in place.
“Michigan will become the sole outlier at a time when the Upper Peninsula is experiencing rates of COVID infection not seen in our state since April,” the release said.
Gov. Whitmer will retain the force of law until the ruling takes place 21 days after the court’s decision, on Oct. 23.