Local Landscaper Included In Suit Filed Against Governor, Prosecutors
April 17, 2020
A local landscaping company is among those suing Governor Gretchen Whitmer and several county prosecutors challenging certain provisions of a recent executive order.
The lawsuit was filed by the conservative American Freedom Law Center in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan on behalf of three Michigan residents. They include Paul Cavanaugh of Brighton who owns a local landscaping business and two attorneys - Kimberly Beemer of Saginaw and Robert Muise of Superior Township. Both Cavanaugh and Beemer own cottages in Charlevoix County. In addition to Governor Whitmer, the lawsuit names Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt, Charlevoix County Prosecutor Allen Telgenhof and Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie. Those three are being sued in their official capacities.
The complaint states that Cavanaugh would be subject to prosecution for violating the executive order if he were to visit his cottage. It states the executive order discriminates against individuals, including Plaintiffs Beemer and Cavanaugh, impairs their right to travel, and deprives them of the use and enjoyment of their property. The complaint states under the order, a Wisconsin resident could travel to their cottage in Michigan without violating the order and there is no reasonable justification for restricting Michigan residents from traveling to cottages that they own or rent during the current pandemic. That’s despite public health officials and northern Michigan leaders saying such movement could spread the virus to those communities in a way that would overwhelm their health care systems.
The complaint says Cavanaugh has worked hard to develop and expand his landscaping business but his company came to an abrupt halt due to the Governor’s order. It goes on to say the lost revenue is impossible to replace and there is far less likelihood of Plaintiff Cavanaugh’s business spreading COVID-19 than other businesses currently permitted such as hardware stores, grocery stores, gas stations and health centers.
The complaint states the “case seeks to protect and vindicate fundamental liberties that citizens of the United States enjoy free from government interference. These liberties are not conferred or granted by government to then be rescinded at the will and whims of government officials.” The lawsuit alleges that various provisions of the Governor’s latest executive order violate the First Amendment regarding freedom of association, the Second Amendment regarding the right to bear arms, and the Fourteenth Amendment regarding due process and equal protection.
A copy of the complaint is attached below.
In response to the lawsuit, Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt issued a statement, which read in part;
"We are experiencing an unprecedented health emergency where hundreds of Livingston County residents have been infected and some have died. The people of Livingston County have gone above-and-beyond to protect themselves and our community. I encourage that continued vigilance.
In Livingston County, we have approached this crisis with common sense by encouraging voluntary compliance. We want people to remain safe and healthy, but we are also extraordinarily sensitive to and supportive of the rights and civil liberties of our citizens.
We have not issued any criminal charges for violating the Executive Orders. Criminal enforcement is not the answer to this health crisis and that has been my consistent message to law enforcement. Consistent with that priority and in the exercise of my discretion as Prosecutor, none of the individuals in this lawsuit have been at risk of being prosecuted by my office. Any prosecution in those instances would have to come through the Attorney General's office."
His full statement is posted below.