Pritzker rips into lawmaker who filed lawsuit over stay-at-home order: 'Cheap political stunt'

Governor JB Pritzker lambasted a state lawmaker on Tuesday after a judge in southern Illinois sided with the representative’s lawsuit that the governor’s extension of the stay-at-home-order exceeds his emergency authority and violates individual civil rights.

The stay-at-home order “remains in place,” Pritzker said to begin his daily COVID-19 briefing.

“[The judge's ruling] only applies to one person, because it was only ever about one person. This was a cheap political stunt, designed so that the representative can see his name in headlines, and unfortunately he has briefly been successful, in that most callous of feats. As absurd as this charade is, we are taking this matter very seriously," the governor said. "Because of the threat to public health from this court order, and the fact that the state has acted well within its legal authority to protect the health of the public, the state is appealing immediately.”

“We will not let one irresponsible state representative deter us from success,” he added.

On Monday, Clay County Circuit Judge Michael McHaney sided with Republican Rep. Darren Bailey, who sought a temporary restraining order against the Democratic governor’s executive decree. Pritzker has relied on an April 2 statewide disaster declaration as authority to close schools, shut down nonessential businesses and limit movement by individuals from their homes because of the potentially deadly COVID-19.

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Pritzker accused Bailey, a Xenia resident, of being “blindly devoted to ideology and the pursuit of personal celebrity.”

“It’s insulting. It’s dangerous and people’s safety and health have now been put at risk,” Pritzker said Monday. “There may be people who contract coronavirus as a result of what Darren Bailey has done.”

Bailey said he’s trying to protect civil liberties and rejected Pritzker’s criticism. He said state law gives the governor emergency authority for only 30 days. The state’s own pandemic response plan indicates the job now belongs to county health departments, Bailey said.

Rep. John Cabello, a Republican from Machesney Park, said Tuesday that he plans to file a similar lawsuit but that his will benefit everyone in the state.

The Rockford police detective said he believes people can take necessary precautions and live safely without government interference.

“I want to see everyone get back to a normal, American way of life,” Cabello said.

The legal skirmish reflects how the virus has escalated tensions between Chicago and its five “collar” counties. Some non-Chicagoans see the virus as a big-city problem. As of Monday, 91% of the state’s cases were in Chicago and its suburbs. Bailey’s home of Clay County had two. Cabello’s Winnebago County, whose seat, Rockford, is the state’s third-largest city, had 242.

Pritzker argues that several counties with the highest rates of infections and deaths from the disease are in southern Illinois. And in many places with low numbers, relatively few people have been tested.

Pritzker could render the lawsuit moot by calling the General Assembly into session and securing legislative support for the continued order. But lawmakers haven’t met since early March because of social-distancing guidelines and Pritzker said he is confident McHaney’s ruling will be overturned.

Also on Tuesday, Illinois health officials marked the highest single-day jump in deaths from COVID-19, announcing 144 more fatalities.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.


Associated Press and Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.