ILLINOIS — All eyes will be on a Clay County courtroom where a state representative is seeking to have a judge hold Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker in civil contempt of court and jailed for continuing to issue COVID-19 executive orders.
The Illinois Attorney General has requested that the Illinois Supreme Court postpone the hearing pending the outcome of a pending count in the case.
Pritzker could face Clay County Judge Michael McHaney. Pritzker recently called McHaney’s rulings “ridiculous.”
Last week, Pritzker was asked about the filing that state Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, made to find the governor in contempt for continuing to issue COVID-19 executive orders despite McHaney’s ruling against unilateral orders beyond 30 days.
“All I can say is the rulings out of Clay County have been ridiculous,” the governor said. “There’s no other court that has ruled as they have on the matter that they ruled on.”
The judge has since set a hearing date for 1 p.m. Friday in Clay County, where the governor is to appear.
Attorney Thomas DeVore, who represents Bailey in the case, said in his opinion the governor’s public statements were contemptuous as was his decision to continue to issue orders related to COVID-19.
“Judge McHaney told the governor ‘you have no authority after April 8th to issue [COVID-19] executive orders,’” DeVore said. “And [the governor] just disregards it and goes about and enters them, just keeps on a doing it.”
While publicly criticizing McHaney, Pritzker referenced what a federal judge wrote in ruling against a temporary restraining order in a different case challenging the governor’s COVID-19 orders.
“And said that the decision by that judge was bereft of any legal analysis and I think that’s accurate,” Pritzker said.
DeVore said other judges haven’t ruled on the merits of the issue as McHaney did. DeVore said Pritzker should know a judge’s order should be followed.
“[Pritzker is] an attorney, he is licensed in this state, and I assure you if any of us practicing lawyers disregard a court’s orders and just say ‘sorry, not going to follow you,’ we’re in trouble,” DeVore said. “Even if I don’t agree, I follow it because I am a licensed attorney and I took an oath to follow the laws of this state.”
While another judge in another jurisdiction can opine on other rulings elsewhere, DeVore said the Clay County judge’s ruling hasn’t been appealed or overturned and remains standing.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office Monday didn’t comment but provided a filing it made with the Illinois Supreme Court requesting a stay on the contempt hearing.
“Additionally, the Governor requests that this Court answer the underlying legal question raised by this case, which is whether the Governor has acted within the scope of his authority under the Act and Illinois Constitution in issuing disaster proclamations and executive orders in response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the AG’s filing says.