OWOSSO (WJRT) (5/21/2020) - A Shiawassee County judge again sided with Owosso barber Karl Manke, allowing him to remain open while legal action continues in the courts.
The Michigan Attorney General's Office sought a temporary injunction, which would have forced Manke to close immediately while legal action against him continues in court.
He reopened his barbershop on May 4 in violation of Michigan's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order.
Owosso Police Department issued a warning and two citations to Manke for violating the order before the Attorney General's Office sought a temporary restraining order, which the judge denied.
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has suspended Manke's professional license.
The judge on Thursday denied the attorney general's request for a temporary injunction because he believes state regulators can't prove Manke is creating an imminent health violation.
State attorneys argued this was a civil case and Manke violated health codes, which are separate from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive orders during the coronavirus pandemic.
They showed photos of Manke cutting hair and included statements from public health officials arguing that coronavirus is a serious health threat. They argued that Manke’s barbershop could allow coronavirus to spread by close contact among people and by touching infected surfaces.
However, David Kallman, who is representing Manke, said there is no evidence that the barbershop is unsafe and poses an immediate public health emergency. He said potential and possible spread of coronavirus doesn’t equate to an immediate concern.
Under questioning from Stewart, the state attorneys acknowledged that Manke could be arrested if officials deem him an imminent danger to the community. However, they were reluctant to go that far and pointed out that police have discretion on how to enforce laws, including who to arrest.
The judge’s ruling on Thursday is not a final decision clearing Manke to remain open in perpetuity. He only is allowing the barbershop to remain open while the case progresses in court.
A final ruling on whether Manke legally is allowed to operate in violation of the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order will come later.
Ryan Jarvi, a spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, said the issue likely will be decided at the Michigan Court of Appeals.
"The Court of Appeals retained jurisdiction over this case when it ordered the trial court to hold a hearing so the Court of Appeals is where this matter will ultimately be decided," he said. "We look forward to having our day in that court."