Whitmer blames GOP justices for emergency powers decision, stumps for Dem candidates

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer blamed the Friday defeat of her emergency powers on the Michigan Supreme Court's Republican-nominated majority and stumped for Democratic-nominated judicial candidates in a Sunday appearance on CNN's "State of the Union."

Whitmer said the Supreme Court "undermined" her emergency powers "on a slim majority Republican vote," noting it was ironic that the decision came the same day President Donald Trump was admitted to the hospital with coronavirus.

"Michiganders have an opportunity to weigh in on our Supreme Court on this Nov. 3 ballot," Whitmer said. "I'm hoping they elect (Bridget) McCormack and (Elizabeth) Welch because we've got to have justices who do the right thing and follow the rule of law."

Michigan Supreme Court justices (from left) Elizabeth T. Clement, David F. Viviano, Stephen J. Markman, Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack, Brian K. Zahra, Richard H. Bernstein and Megan K. Cavanagh, listen to a case.

The Supreme Court on Friday was unanimous in ruling Whitmer had no authority under a 1976 emergency law to extend the emergency past April 30 without approval from the Legislature. 

But the court split 4-3 in ruling that a separate law Whitmer was using to issue executive orders — the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act — was unconstitutional because it was an unlawful delegation of legislative powers.

The majority opinion was joined by the court's four Republican-nominated justices: Stephen Markman, Brian Zahra, David Viviano and Beth Clement.

The majority opinion was opposed by Democratic-nominated Justices McCormack, Megan Cavanagh and Richard Bernstein. 

McCormack, currently the high court's chief justice, is running for re-election, alongside Elizabeth Welch, who is running to fill a second opening left by Markman, who is prohibited from seeking re-election because of his age. 

On the Republican ticket, Court of Appeals Judge Brock Swartzle and former St. Clair County Assistant Prosecutor Mary Kelly are running for the two openings.

Whitmer made the comments after she was asked about increasing coronavirus cases in parts of Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula.

Shortly before the Supreme Court order was released Friday, Whitmer had ordered the Upper Peninsula be moved back from Phase 5 to Phase 4 of the reopening plan because of that increased caseload. 

"The Upper Peninsula is reporting numbers that were in excess of what we saw back in April and May in lower part of Michigan," Whitmer said. "This threat is still very real."

eleblanc@detroitnews.com