The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday overruled an appeals court that had ordered a local barbershop to close after violating the state’s coronavirus lockdown orders.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been in an escalating legal battle with Owosso barber Karl Manke since Manke reopened his shop on May 4. The 77-year-old barber said that after weeks of a government-mandated shutdown he had to open or risk losing his business.
“It is incumbent on the courts to ensure decisions are made according to the rule of law, not hysteria,” State Supreme Court Justice David Viviano said in the ruling. “One hopes that this great principle — essential to any free society, including ours — will not itself become yet another casualty of COVID-19.”
The Supreme Court remanded the decision back down to the appeals court to decide again because the court violated court procedures in ordering an injunction against Manke’s business, according to Viviano.
The appeals court ordered Manke to close in a 2-1 ruling which did not meet the 3-0 threshold necessary to issue an injunction. The appeals court also rushed the judgment without “plenary consideration, full briefing, oral argument, or an opportunity for amici curiae to file briefs.”
In reconsidering the decision, the Court of Appeals should also weigh whether the issue of Manke’s shop being open is moot since Whitmer has said barbershops and salons will be allowed to open up on June 15. Whitmer opened much of the state last week, lifting the stay-at-home order. Restaurants and bars may begin serving patrons inside at 50% capacity on Monday.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel sued Manke in mid-May to force him to close his business for violating Whitmer’s lockdown order. The state had already attempted to force Manke closed by citing him and revoking his health license.
Whitmer’s reopening decision conflicts with her six-stage plan that classified restaurants and bars together with hairdressers and salons in stage 5 of reopening. When asked last week about the decision to keep barbershops closed, the governor said that people should “google” how to cut hair if they want a haircut.
Whitmer later apologized for her comment.
“I didn’t mean to offend people who are in the profession,” Whitmer said. “I think that it’s important, I think that it is licensed for a reason. These are professionals who take it seriously and intimately interact with the public, and that’s why we have to take this very seriously about how we proceed to keep people safe.
Barbershop and salon representatives have heavily criticized Whitmer’s handling of the shutdown and reopening. Some have pointed out the contradictions in the governor’s reopening plan and her own decision-making, while others took issue with her directive for people to “google” how to cut hair while the state mandates professionals to be licensed.
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