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JUDGE: Pritzker doesn’t have authority to restrict freedoms

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Rep. Darren Bailey (right) with his attorney Tom Devore (left).

LOUISVILLE, Ill. (WGEM) — A Clay County Judge has ruled in favor of Rep. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia), voiding Gov. JB Pritzker's executive orders in response to COVID-19.

"This is a victory for freedom. This is a victory for the people of Illinois," Bailey said Thursday.

Over two hours of debate in the Clay County courthouse led to Judge Michael McHaney ruling Pritzker's executive orders since April 8 are now invalid. That comes from Bailey's argument that Pritzker's emergency powers ran out 30 days after his initial emergency declaration.

"I had to have the help of attorney to ask that question. Simply ask a question: Is this right? Because I don't think it is," Bailey said. "So, we discovered today that my question was founded and this indeed is not right."


Judge McHaney granted summary judgment on two counts, calling Pritzker's orders unconstitutional. That includes the governor's ability to issue consecutive disaster proclamations. The judge said Pritzker doesn’t have authority to restrict freedoms. McHaney also continued to question who the Pritzker administration listens to for guidance. However, the Illinois Attorney General's office notes public health experts want to keep residents safe.

This case isn't over yet. Pritzker plans on appealing, as several Illinois courts have sided with the governor. "Every other court – both state and federal – that has considered these exact issues has agreed with the administration that executive orders protecting Illinoisans’ health and safety are well within the governor’s constitutional authority. This includes a federal court decision earlier today," stated spokesperson Emily Bittner.

While Bailey's attorney, Tom DeVore, says every Illinoisan is "free to do what they please" without executive orders, Bittner says the Phase 4 guidelines will stay in effect. She notes "this is not a final judgment and has no injunction." DeVore disagrees.

"The law says you cannot profligate health regulations which merely have a tendency to prevent the spread of a disease. Those aren't my rules," DeVore said. "Those are the Illinois Supreme Court."

Following the action in Clay County

Following Judge McHaney's decision, Bailey Tweeted "Illinois is Open! Live Responsible!"

Previous history

Bailey's lawsuit, filed in April, accuses Gov. J.B. Pritzker of abusing his emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Pritzker's Stay-at-Home order is no longer in effect, Rep. Bailey's attorney, Tom DeVore feels his argument is just as valid when addressing the phased plan to reopen the state's economy. The governor has explained any region of the state could move back to a previous phase of Restore Illinois with a surge of COVID-19 cases.

The governor previously said that Bailey's lawsuit is an insult to all Illinoisans who have been lost to this crisis.

"History will remember those who put politics aside to come together to keep people safe. It will also remember those who so blindly devoted to ideology and the pursuit of personal celebrity that they made an enemy of science and of reason."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Judge McHaney's order can be read below:

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