CHICAGO (CBS) — A downstate judge dealt another blow to Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday, rejecting his motion to transfer Rep. Darren Bailey’s lawsuit challenging the statewide stay-at-home order to Sangamon County.
Pritzker and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office had argued Sangamon County is “the most convenient venue” for the case. The governor’s motion for a change of venue argued expert witnesses and public health officials who would be called to testify do not live in Clay County, where Bailey filed his lawsuit, and because some of those witnesses, and all of the documents in the case are officially located in Springfield, the case should be moved to Sangamon County.
“Finally, the consequences of this suit are not limited to local interests—it will affect every resident of the State of Illinois. Sangamon County, as the seat of Illinois government, is therefore the most convenient venue,” the Illinois Attorney General’s office, which is representing Pritzker, wrote in their motion.
At a hearing Friday afternoon in Clay County, Judge Michael McHaney denied the governor’s motion.
Bailey, a Republican from Xenia, is challenging the Democratic governor’s authority to extend his stay-at-home order beyond the first 30 days of his original disaster proclamation.
Bailey’s attorney, Thomas DeVore, had suggested the governor sought a change of venue only because he is displeased with McHaney’s rulings thus far in the case.
DeVore argued a request for a change of venue “is not a vehicle for Pritzker to forum shop for a favorable ear, but instead is a device to remedy a situation in which the existing forum is truly inconvenient for all parties.”
After denying Pritzker’s motion, McHaney set a May 22 hearing on Bailey’s motion for a summary judgment that Pritzker lacks the authority to issue successive disaster proclamations beyond the original 30 days.
Bailey has until Monday to file that motion, and Pritzker has until Thursday to respond.
Last month, McHaney granted Bailey a temporary restraining order, essentially exempting him from Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. Bailey later agreed to vacate that restraining order so he could file an amended lawsuit, after Pritzker appealed McHaney’s ruling.
Bailey’s amended lawsuit argues a 2001 memo from then-Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan undercuts the governor’s stance that state law allows him to issue successive proclamations for the same disaster.
In that memo, Ryan responded to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s questions about whether the governor could exercise emergency powers beyond 30 days after a disaster declaration for an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
“The governor would be required to seek legislative approval for the exercise of extraordinary measures extending beyond 30 days,” Ryan wrote in the memo.
Raoul’s office has argued that informal opinion was written nearly 20 years ago regarding a disease affecting livestock, and has no bearing on the current pandemic that has killed nearly 4,000 people.