Pritzker Must Provide Discovery In COVID-19 Challenge Or Face Sanctions

ILLINOIS — Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration has a Wednesday deadline to start turning over documents justifying why it ordered restaurants to limit their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attorney Greg Earl, with Myers, Earl and Nelson P.C., represents Geneva-based FoxFire restaurant, which sued the governor last fall.

“FoxFire is continuing this fight because what happens if another strain, that’s what we’ve heard of, another strain from Europe or South Africa hits and the governor decides to put in another 30-day window,” Earl said.

The governor has already issued 12 months of executive orders related to the pandemic. His most recent order issued Feb. 5 expires March 7.

Earl said his client is taking this case all the way to the state supreme court because the governor’s powers of issuing consecutive 30-day executive orders need to be clear.

“Any common person out there on the street, you hear 30 days, it means 30 days,” Earl said. “So only in the legal profession can you can you kind of extrapolate that 30 days means 365 days when we’re approaching a year of executive orders from Governor Pritzker on this coronavirus when it’s not novel.”

While FoxFire’s narrow case is on appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, Earl said Sangamon County Judge Raylene Grischow last month denied the state’s motion to strike discovery in another case and ordered the Pritzker administration to provide justification for his orders or face sanctions like covering FoxFire’s legal fees.

“FoxFire’s Motion to Compel is Granted,” Grishow wrote in a Feb. 17 order. “The state shall … begin producing reasonably responsive information and documents on a rolling basis.”

“The court reserves ruling on FoxFire’s request for fees relating to its Motion to Compel,” Grishow said.

Covering legal fees is minimal compared to the governor continuing to stonewall the courts, Earl said.

“Generally speaking, [the Pritzker administration] is wasting more time by not complying, and spending more taxpayer dollars by not complying with the judge’s order because we keep having to go back to court on these, in my opinion, baseless motions, when discovery is acceptable and proper and two judges have said that,” Earl said.

All other cases challenging the governor’s power consolidated in Sangamon County have withdrawn, but FoxFire remains, Earl said.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office provided a copy of the judge’s order, but declined to comment on the pending case. 

Grishow set March 30 for a hearing in the case via video conference. Download PDF

The Center Square – Greg Bishop

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.