By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s since-rescinded executive orders requiring that residents stay home and most businesses close to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit said on Friday the U.S. Constitution’s ban on federal lawsuits by citizens against states barred the Michigan plaintiffs from suing Whitmer in her role as governor.
Friedman also said the case had become moot, and the idea that Whitmer might reimpose restrictions was “pure speculation.”
The plaintiffs, including a landscaper and a married couple who had been unable to travel between their two homes, claimed that Whitmer’s orders deprived them of due process and were an unconstitutional taking of their property.
Their lawyer David Helm said his clients will appeal. “I’m disappointed that the judge considered the issue moot given that the governor keeps moving the goalposts, and won’t say she won’t reimpose restrictions in the future,” Helm said in an interview.
A similar lawsuit is pending in Kalamazoo, Michigan, before another federal judge.
Michigan has been among the U.S. states hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Whitmer’s orders had been among the nation’s toughest, and the Democratic governor has faced protests and criticism from business leaders and President Donald Trump.
The governor issued new orders last week allowing the gradual reopening in June of retailers, restaurants, bars and hair salons, subject to capacity limits. Movie theaters and gyms can reopen in northern Michigan on Wednesday.
Whitmer has often said reopening the state’s economy should be slow, to reduce the risk of another wave of infections.
The governor is widely seen as a potential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
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