FILE - Gov. J.B. Pritzker, 8-3-20

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference in Springfield on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Attorneys for FoxFire restaurant in Geneva suing Gov. J.B. Pritzker over his continued COVID-19 restrictions expect a judge to allow the case to move forward. 

They also say the thousands of pages of internal data the state was ordered to hand over as part of the discovery process appears to show things have been misrepresented to the public.

On Tuesday, Sangamon County Judge Raylene Grischow heard virtual oral arguments on whether to dismiss the case. The governor’s attorneys made the motion and said the way to remedy the differences over policy decisions was by voting in the next election in November 2022.

“The solution is to vote,” said attorney Darren Kinkead arguing for the motion to dismiss. “Next year there’s going to be a gubernatorial election.”

FoxFire attorney Greg Earl told WMAY on Wednesday it was troubling that 35% of small businesses have closed since the pandemic.

“I think the governor’s argument of ‘just wait until I’m out of office’ is horrific, to be honest with you,” Earl said.

Pritzker’s attorneys also said separation of powers should keep the courts out of such decisions. But Grischow on Tuesday said the orders seem never-ending and the question is about whether suspension of civil liberties was justified.

“There’s no end in sight,” Grischow said Tuesday. “Yes, we’ve made leaps and bounds to where we are today, but ultimately aren’t we looking at infringing on people’s rights? And that is something for the courts to review.”

Earl said that signals Grischow will allow the case to proceed.

“You have a right to stand up and say ‘hey, this isn’t right,’ and I thought Judge Grischow when she said that to the state and they didn’t really have a response to that, I thought that was pretty telling,” Earl said.

On Wednesday, Wisconsin's state supreme court ruled Wisconsin's governor exceeded his authority with continued COVID-19 orders, including the statewide mask mandate.

Pritzker on Wednesday said the Wisconsin Supreme Court is “hyper-political.”

“It is a Republican-controlled supreme court that seems to want to battle against the best advice from our Centers for Disease Control, against the best mitigations that we know work, that’s not a course that we want to follow in the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said. “We want to keep people healthy and safe and we’re doing that with the mitigations that we have in place.”

“Masks are necessary,” Pritzker said. “When we can get enough people vaccinated and we can get to a point where things are fully opened and we have heard immunity we’ll be able to doff our mask, but take it off.”

Illinois’ mask mandate expires in June unless the governor issues another emergency rule.

In FoxFire’s case over capacity restrictions for indoor dining, Grischow told Pritzker’s attorneys Tuesday she reviewed CDC guidelines and didn’t find anything suggesting actions of blanket restaurant closures as the governor ordered.

There are still orders limiting capacity to 50% and it’s unclear when that will be relaxed as part of the governor’s “bridge” to a full reopening of the economy after more than a year.

Grischow had previously ordered documents justifying the governor’s restrictions be handed over to the restaurant's attorneys.

Earl said those documents raise more questions than they answer.

“Online [on the Illinois Department of Public Health COVID portal] it says long term care facilities is about a percent of COVID cases per the state of Illinois,” Earl said Wednesday. “Internally, it’s about 40 percent. So there’s some misrepresentations going on here to the public and I think the public needs to hear that.”

Of the thousands of discovery documents turned over, many are various news reports or research studies from other countries. But other documents contain spreadsheets with lines and lines of data.

One discovery document that Myers, Earl and Nelson P.C. uploaded to a shared cloud drive lists cases for Kane County in 2020, in places where there were two or more cases, nearly 32 percent were places of congregate settings, like assisted living centers, or correctional facilities or group living settings. Fewer than 5 percent of the locations were restaurants.

The total number of cases from that same spreadsheet the Pritzker administration provided FoxFire attorneys, of a total of 3,046 total cases in Kane County in 2020, just under 1.2%, or 36 cases “meeting case definition” were in restaurants compared to nearly 48%, or 1,459 cases, being at facilities of congregate setting.

Grischow is expected to issue her ruling on whether to dismiss the case in the next 12 days. Earl said they’re looking for a bench trial.

Staff Reporter

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.