(The Center Square) – A Clay County judge ruled Thursday that Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders were void beyond the initial 30-day period in a legal win for state Rep. Darren Bailey.

Bailey posted on social media after the ruling: "Illinois is OPEN! Live Responsible." However, it was not immediately clear what the ruling means for Illinoisans, who are no longer under the same stay-at-home order that was in place when Bailey filed the lawsuit.

The issue is far from resolved, University of Illinois Springfield Politics Professor Kent Redfield said.

"We need clarity at this point and eventually it may be provided but not in the short term," he said. "It does make for a messy legal situation until these things get resolved [in the courts]." 

It was a split decision, in as much as there was a disaster found, the judge said, but after that 30 days is up Bailey's attorney, Thomas DeVore, said the judge told the governor's attorneys the governor can't continue to wield that. The practical effect is any executive order that relates to COVID-19 is invalid for everyone in Illinois, DeVore said. 
"As we stand here today at this moment any executive order ... under COVID-19 ... the limitations on bars and restaurants, that's gone," DeVore said. "Go open your bowling alley." 

The Illinois Attorney General is expected to appeal and the case could go all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. 

Bailey, R-Xenia, walked up to the Clay County Courthouse on Thursday with his attorney Thomas DeVore. A group of people cheered him on.

“We live as responsible Americans,” Bailey said. “And that’s all that we’ve got to do instead of being controlled by tyrannical government. Looking forward to freeing business and the people of Illinois and letting government do the real job instead of a one-person rule.”

Bailey sued the governor in April. On April 27, a judge granted Bailey a temporary restraining order that provided only Bailey with relief from the governor's stay-at-home order.

Pritzker called Bailey's lawsuit a political stunt.

“Rep. Darren Bailey’s decision to take to the courts to try and dismantle public health directives designed to keep people safe is an insult to all Illinoisans who have been lost during this COVID-19 crisis and it’s a danger to millions of people who may get ill because of his recklessness,” Pritzker said in April.

The governor said Bailey was looking for personal celebrity and said the lawmaker had “made an enemy of science and reason.”

Shortly after the temporary restraining order was issued in late April, DeVore rescinded the order and refiled an amended complaint.

“The only reason I did that is because his appeal was challenging the mode of that restraining order, that’s not the argument here. The argument is freeing and releasing the businesses and people of Illinois,” Bailey told WMAY on Thursday before the ruling.

Last month, Pritzker moved to have Bailey’s case heard by a federal court rather than Clay County Court.

“At the end of the day, Defendant is forum shopping,” Bailey’s attorneys said in a filing. “He sought relief in the Illinois Supreme Court and was rejected there. He filed a motion to transfer Plaintiff’s Clay County, Illinois, case to Sangamon County, and the Circuit Court denied that motion. Facing a hearing on Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, Defendant then concocted a removal to this Court.”

In late May, Justice Department attorneys filed a statement of interest in the case in federal court.

"The Governor of Illinois owes it to the people of Illinois to allow his state’s courts to adjudicate the question of whether Illinois law authorizes orders he issued to respond to COVID-19," Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband said. "Under our system, all public officials, including governors, must comply with the law, especially during times of crisis. The Department of Justice remains committed to defending the rule of law and the American people at all times, especially during this difficult time as we deal with COVID-19 pandemic."

In a separate case that DeVore brought against the Illinois State Board of Education, DeVore said he withdrew the motion for a temporary restraining order and will file a motion for summary judgment. He said the state's orders on school districts are too onerous and impracticable. 

Associate Editor

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.