Outside Legal Counsel PLC

Michigan Law Students Spur Suit Against Governor Challenging COVID Travel Ban

For Immediate Release | Apr 27, 2020

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - A federal lawsuit filed on Saturday asserts that an executive order banning travel between two residences violated a Michigan woman's right to intrastate travel.

On April 9, 2020, Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-42 which prohibited travel between two Michigan residences beginning on April 10. A Michigan timeshare owner had an allotted use of her Northern Michigan property in April and again for a week in June. Despite self-isolating in her home for over 14 days, having no symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus, and desiring to go to her Northern Michigan residence, the Executive Order improperly halted her ability to safely and legally travel. Her home in Wayne County has seen the highest level of COVID-19 confirmations in the state.

Yet ironically, as the lawsuit points out, Executive Order 2020-42, did not prohibit the timeshare's other co-owners, residents of Indiana, from using the same property.

Executive Order 2020-42 was terminated prior to its expiration date due to the issuance of a new order designated as Executive Order 2020-59.

The federal complaint alleges the decision by Michigan's Governor violated the property owners' right to intrastate travel under the Due Process and Equal Protection protections of the Michigan and US Constitutions. The suit seeks a declaratory judgment and be awarded nominal damages of $1.00.

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, has been spearheaded by a group of University of Michigan law students, including Jacob R. Weaver.

"This suit is solely about the government's arbitrary infringement on fundamental rights," said Jacob R. Weaver, one of the law students working on the suit. "Even during a crisis, a governor must act within the limits of the Constitution."

Attorneys Philip L. Ellison of Outside Legal Counsel, PLC; Matthew E. Gronda; and Andrew Fink of Fink & Fink, PLLC, agreed to represent the plaintiffs in this action, working with the law students to develop the lawsuit and file the complaint.

Federal appellate case law has previously explained that the right to travel through public spaces and roadways is fundamentally one of access.

State citizens possessed the fundamental right, inherent in citizens of all free governments, peacefully to dwell within the limits of their respective states, to move at will from place to place therein, and to have free ingress thereto and egress therefrom.
"The lawsuit we are bringing, with the assistance of University of Michigan law students, challenges the clear violation not only the rights of our client, but the rights of thousands of Michiganders as well," said Mr. Ellison.

You can view the complaint here.

The case has been assigned to federal judge George Caram Steeh, III.

Jacob R. Weaver
Law Student, University of Michigan Law
(248) 622-3515