I sued Governor Whitmer – and the Constitution won
May 12, 2020 PLYMOUTH VOICE.
Plymouth Michigan News
by Eric Esshaki
I took Governor Whitmer to federal court last month. This set the stage for a legal battle between our most basic rights and the Governor’s right to set emergency rules during a crisis. I won, and so did the Constitution.
This legal victory has important practical implications for our democracy. This case wasn’t about ending the shutdown or safely reopening the economy but it established two important precedents.
First, Governor Whitmer’s power is limited by our Constitution, even in times of emergency. This is a very American principle—one that sets our nation apart from most others around the world.
Second, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals established a new and binding precedent, which prevents federal courts from rewriting our election laws.
Our rights are fragile. If there is ever a time to protect those rights, it is now, during this time of crisis when those rights are most at risk. This legal battle protected our rights and halted Governor Whitmer’s attempt to use this crisis for her own political gain.
Under Michigan law, candidates who wish to have their names printed on the August primary ballot are required to gather signatures. This year, the deadline to file those signatures was April 21st. Signature gathering is a routine aspect of running for office, is time consuming and requires close contact with voters. Under normal circumstances, it is perhaps one the easier steps involved in running for office. We are not, however, living under normal circumstances.
Governor Whitmer’s March 23rd Stay-Home order made the signature-gathering process practically impossible. Candidates were prohibited from leaving their homes to collect signatures, and those who did faced potential criminal prosecution. Whitmer’s order effectively changed existing law and would have prevented several candidates from running for political office.
My team asked the State to modify these rules. Governor Whitmer refused even though she had already modified other election rules that she believed would benefit her party. Whitmer’s refusal to modify these rules was politics at their worst. It was Whitmer’s attempt to protect her friends and keep several qualified conservative candidates off the ballot. It was her attempt to steal the election by rigging who could run for office.
I am an experienced registered nurse and currently a practicing attorney. I filed a lawsuit in federal court to protect the constitutional rights of candidates and voters. A federal judge determined that Governor Whitmer’s actions violated the Constitution. The judge ordered the Secretary of State to, among other things, extend the filing deadline to May 8th and reduce the required number of signatures by 50%.
That was not the end of it. Governor Whitmer doubled-down on her unconstitutional actions and filed an appeal. A three-judge panel on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Whitmer’s actions were indeed unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit further said that it was the State’s responsibility to make the necessary modifications to the rules, not the court’s. After multiple court appearances, wasted taxpayer dollars, and four judges holding that Whitmer’s actions were unconstitutional, Whitmer finally threw in the towel and made the necessary changes to the rules.
Importantly, this was not a partisan court decision. Judges appointed by Presidents Trump, Obama, and Bush all ruled the exact same way—that Governor Whitmer’s actions were unconstitutional.
Our Constitution prevailed. The rights of candidates and voters were protected. And the Court of Appeals established a new precedent, which prevents Democrats from using the courts to bypass the legislative branch to change our election laws.
Now I am a candidate for U.S. Congress in Michigan’s 11th congressional district. This court case underscores that we must stay vigilant to protect our rights.
Royal Oak attorney Eric Esshaki, running against U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills), filed a lawsuit stating Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order made it “impossible” to qualify for the ballot and collect the required 1,000 valid signatures by the Apr. 21 deadline -while residents are following an emergency order. Esshaki is seeking the GOP nomination in the 11th Congressional District, which covers 23 major cities, comprised of portions of northwestern Wayne and southwestern Oakland counties.