Owosso barber Karl Manke, known for reopening his small shop in defiance of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s shutdown orders has lost his latest court battle. It’s anticipated his legal team will be appealing the ruling from the Court of Appeals. But that has not been confirmed this morning. The state challenged a Shiawassee County Circuit Court Judge who had previously issued multiple rulings against the state and in favor of Manke reopening his shop.  The state claims the 77-year-old barber presents a health risk to his community and the surrounding area by serving his customers.

The Appeals Court ruling was split 2-1. Some court observers predicted the ruling. The two majority judges are appointees of former Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm.  The dissenting Judge is an appointee from the administration of former Republican Governor Rick Snyder. The dissenting Judge writes that the case is presenting the most significant issues before the court in years, maybe decades.

A portion of the written opinion from the two majority Judges is raising some eyebrows from legal observers who say it sounds more like a ruling based on potential medical issues than Michigan law and the state constitution. “Uncontroverted evidence clearly revealed that COVID-19 is a highly communicable illness. Uncontroverted evidence revealed that COVID-19 is spread by infected persons showing no symptoms that could serve to warn others of the possibility of infection,” the Court of Appeals decision states. "Uncontroverted evidence clearly revealed that COVID-19 can be spread from person-to-person quickly and reach people separate from an area of contamination. From this record, the trial court should have concluded that the risk that the party seeking the injunction would be harmed more by the absence of an injunction than the opposing party would be by the granting of the relief.” 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is clearly pleased with the ruling.“As public servants, we take no pleasure in prohibiting residents from being able to earn a living, but we are bound by our obligation to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of all Michiganders,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “This pandemic has demanded we take appropriate measures to mitigate actions that pose a threat to the public. Protecting lives must now, and always, be the state's first priority. We are pleased the Court of Appeals and Administrative Law Judge appreciate this concern.”

We’re waiting to hear if barber Manke decides to open in defiance of the court or wait it out pending a potentially supportive appeal or separate court order blocking the Governor's shutdown. Based on his actions to date, it is more than likely he will reopen this morning.

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