On March 10, by Executive Order 2020-04, Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared that Michigan was in a state of emergency.
As we all know, a lot has happened since then in our state and nation, which I need not detail here.
Suffice it to say the governor has issued a number of additional orders (with more possibly on the way) to address a wide variety of health, safety and other issues.
The legal questions in situations such as this are what is the authority for the governor to issue such orders and what can the orders require us to do? For today’s column, I will try to answer both.
To begin with, our system of government has three branches — legislative, executive and judicial.
The governor is the head of the executive branch and under Michigan’s Constitution Article V, Section 1, is vested with all executive power.
This means that as the leader of the state she has the right to order the implementation of existing laws.
There are two laws, which specifically apply when a state of emergency is declared.
The first is the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 and the second is the Emergency Management Act.
These statutes, when read together, provide that when there is a great public crisis, disaster or similar public emergency, the governor can declare a state of emergency or disaster and is given the power to take a number of actions to address the particular situation including issuing orders, rules and regulations.
The orders that are made are subject to judicial review, have the force of law and must be obeyed. A violation is a misdemeanor, which carries up to 90 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine.
Even the courts have been affected as evidenced by the March 20 order prohibiting residential evictions until after April 17 and the stay at home order effective March 24 allowing people to go to court only for legal proceedings or hearings for essential or emergency purposes.
There is a list and the complete texts of all of the executive orders and directives that have been issued on the governor’s website michigan.gov.
Please stay safe and healthy and I know we all hope that this ends soon.