10 lawsuits over COVID-19 restrictions merged in one court

By Sarah Mansur Capitol News Illinois

The Illinois Supreme Court on Wednesday, Nov. 18 ordered that 10 lawsuits challenging indoor dining bans across the state by consolidated with existing cases in Sangamon County that raise the same legal questions. (Capitol News Illinois file photo)

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Supreme Court agreed to combine 10 lawsuits challenging indoor dining bans across the state with existing cases in Sangamon County that raise the same legal questions.

The Supreme Court’s order brings a total of 19 cases involving legal challenges to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 related restrictions that are now consolidated in Sangamon County Court before Judge Raylene Grischow.

The 10 cases added to Grischow’s group of pending cases were all brought by businesses operating as restaurants with indoor dining service, and all the cases are against Pritzker, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike and IDPH.

The order filed on Tuesday, Nov. 17 is in response to a request from lawyers with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which represents the governor and state agencies.

The AG’s lawyers note that all of the cases raise the same question about the governor’s authority to issue multiple, successive disaster proclamations under the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act.

Grischow has already ruled in favor of Pritzker’s authority to issue multiple 30-day disaster proclamations in two cases that challenged the governor’s executive orders mandating certain public health measures in K-12 schools.

On Nov. 17, in a separate matter, Grischow granted a temporary restraining order against four Sangamon County restaurants that continued to offer indoor dining after the county health department suspended their food service licenses.

The temporary restraining order remains in effect, pending a hearing before Grischow on Dec. 3.

In their request, lawyers with the AG’s Office asked the Illinois Supreme Court earlier this month to consolidate 10 lawsuits — from Cook, Marion, Clinton, DuPage, Kane, McHenry and DeKalb counties — into the group of nine cases already pending together before Grischow in Sangamon County.

“There is no need for multiple circuit courts to review filings, hold hearings, and issue decisions on the very same legal question,” the AG’s court filing states.

The AG’s lawyers also point out that the Illinois Supreme Court previously consolidated those nine cases to Grischow’s group of cases “in August and September when presented with a series of cases similarly challenging the governor’s authority to address the pandemic.”

The cases consolidated before Grischow are scheduled for oral arguments in Sangamon County on Dec. 21.

The request from the AG’s lawyers also asked the Illinois Supreme Court to consolidate all future cases filed that involve this legal question to the group of cases in Sangamon County but the Supreme Court did not grant that part of the request.