Michigan Court of Appeals Sides With State, Orders Shutdown of Owosso Barber

Finding agreement in the concern that “there is an imminent threat to public health,” an Administrative Law Judge and the Michigan Court of Appeals have issued an order instructing a lower court to issue an injunction closing down the Owosso Barber who has been cutting hair despite being told to shut down.

The Michigan Court of Appeals today sided with the State of Michigan in its request for a preliminary injunction, that was filed on behalf of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), requiring Owosso barber Karl Manke to immediately cease operations of his business, while an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued an order continuing the summary suspension of Manke’s professional barber and barbershop licenses.

Manke opened his business in violation of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders, which were issued to protect the public health, safety and welfare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MDHHS issued a public health order against Manke’s barbershop and sought a preliminary injunction requiring that he cease operations at his business. The Shiawassee County Circuit Court found there was not enough evidence to grant the request, but the Court of Appeals decided today to remand the case back to the trial court to enter a preliminary injunction ordering Manke to immediately cease all operations at the barbershop. The Court of Appeals retained jurisdiction over the case to verify that the trial court takes the action it directed.

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The Court of Appeals decision states, “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. 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.”

Meanwhile, Manke’s state-issued licenses for the operation of his business remain suspended. On May 12th, the Department of Attorney General filed a formal complaint with the Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs’ (LARA) order summarily suspending Manke’s licenses to practice and operate a barbershop in Michigan. Manke challenged that order and filed a petition on May 15th for dissolution of the summary suspension.

After a two-day hearing, Administrative Law Judge Stephen B. Goldstein on Wednesday found “that there currently exists an imminent threat to the public health, safety, and welfare which requires emergency action.” Accordingly, Goldstein ordered the summary suspension of Manke’s licenses be continued pending the contested case hearing on the merits of the formal complaint.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says, “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,” and adds, “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.”