Illinois police chief questions Governor Pritzker's powers, stay-at-home orders

(E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

A southern Illinois village police chief is expressing skepticism about Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s power to issue stay-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter last week to residents of the village of Energy, Police Chief Shawn Ladd says he and his department have no interest in enforcing any rules, declarations or proclamations that morally or technically violate provisions of the federal or state constitutions. Ladd told The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale nothing requires him or his officers to enforce the executive orders, first issued in March and extended through May.

“He can make suggestions,” Ladd said of his understanding of the governor’s powers in an emergency.

Ladd backs his views with an opinion made in an internal memo by David Robinson, deputy director of the State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor’s Office to the office’s director, Patrick Delfino. Robinson said he wasn’t sure courts would uphold Pritzker’s limitations on restaurants, bars, public and private gatherings.

Sheila Simon, an assistant professor of law at Southern Illinois University assistant professor of law Sheila Simon is questioning Ladd’s and Robinson’s position.

“My thoughts are that the governor does have emergency powers and they are pretty broad,” she said, adding the state’s Emergency Management Act and other state laws gives the governor a lot of leeway.

“It does seem to be tailored to keeping us from harming each other,” she said of Pritzker’s COVID-19 orders.

Ladd’s position that the governor is overreaching is similar to that of Republican state Rep. Darren Bailey who obtained a temporary order exempting him from the directives.

Pritzker on Tuesday denounced Bailey of Xenia, also in southern Illinois, calling his legal actions a “cheap political stunt.” The governor’s comment came as Illinois officials reported another 144 deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total number to 2,125.