Last month, 77-year-old Michigan barber Karl Manke made national headlines after he was fined and stripped of his license to cut hair for refusing to comply with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus lockdown order.
However, Manke scored a major legal victory on Friday when the state’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled in his favor.
Michigan barber wins in court
Arguing that he has the right to work, Manke reopened his barbershop in defiance of Whitmer’s lockdown policy on May 4. For this, he was ticketed, charged with a misdemeanor and had his license suspended.
But that didn’t break down his resolve to reopen. “I’m 77 years old. I mean, what are they going to give me? Life? I’ve got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. I [couldn’t] care less,” Manke said during an interview with “Fox & Friends First” in late May.
“This is an oppressive move on this governor’s part,” Manke told Breitbart more recently, going on to say that Whitmer’s policy “reflects almost a police state.”
“I refuse to stand down on this,” the elderly barber insisted.
The Michigan state Supreme Court’s decision overturned an earlier ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals which had ordered that a lower court issue a preliminary injunction against Manke. Its majority opinion argued that “once the governor declared a public health emergency, the Legislature determined that it was up to the department to issue orders protecting the public health.”
“Accordingly, in order to challenge the exercise of that authority, appellee had to present evidence that appellant overstepped the statutory boundaries,” the appeals court opinion continued. “Appellee failed to present any evidence to rebut the department’s conclusion that operation of the barbershop posed a serious public health danger.”
State Supreme Court: Rule of law should not be “another casualty of COVID-19”
However, the state’s Supreme Court didn’t agree with that reasoning. According to Justice David Viviano, “Courts decide legal questions that arise in the cases that come before us according to the rule of law.”
“One hopes that this great principle — essential to any free society, including ours — will not itself become yet another casualty of COVID-19,” Vivano added.
Fox News reported early last week that Gov. Whitmer was partially lifting her stay-at-home order, which was among the most restrictive in the nation.
Yet while she imposed tough rules on state residents, someone in her own family had trouble following them. On May 26, Whitmer acknowledged that her husband attempted to secure access to a boat launch despite her order on outdoor recreational activities. The governor attributed his actions to “a failed attempt at humor.”