Libertas Classical Association v. Whitmer

498 F. Supp. 3d 961 (2020)

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Libertas Classical Association v. Whitmer

United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan
498 F. Supp. 3d 961 (2020)

Facts

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (department) issued multiple emergency orders intended to limit the spread of the disease. One order restricted the size of in-person gatherings and required that persons attending such gatherings both practice social distancing and wear face coverings. The Ottawa County Department of Public Health (county) (defendant) received multiple anonymous tips that Libertas Christian School, operated by Libertas Classical Association (Libertas) (plaintiff) was not complying with the face-covering requirement. After a few ineffective, informal exchanges with Libertas, the county issued a cease-and-desist order, ordering Libertas to immediately stop violating the department’s emergency order. Shortly thereafter, the county learned that two teachers had contracted COVID-19. It then issued a second cease-and-desist order requiring Libertas to notify parents and students of the outbreak and to provide the county with information on the teachers’ close contacts. The order stated that if Libertas failed to comply, then all staff and students would be considered close contacts and the school must therefore cease all in-person operations for the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. Libertas failed to comply, and the county closed the school. Libertas believed that the county’s orders violated its due-process rights under the state and federal constitutions by depriving it of a liberty interest without first providing an opportunity for a hearing. Libertas therefore filed a complaint in federal district court seeking a preliminary injunction preventing the orders’ enforcement.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Maloney, J.)

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