Proprietors of Gaylord’s Iron Pig Smokehouse restaurant filed suit on Thursday in Otsego County against the Health Department of Northwest Michigan.
At issue is the agency’s enforcement of the state’s emergency public health orders, which were determined unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court in October 2020. The plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment stating that the state persisted in issuing emergency public health orders under the Michigan Public Health Code, which violated the 2020 Supreme Court ruling.
Court documents filed by Iron Pig’s attorney David M. Delaney include four counts of the health department acting outside its delegated constitutional authority and one count alleging the state agencies violated vesting clauses in the Michigan Constitution.
Among those HDNM actions was a cease-and-desist order to close the Iron Pig, which was issued on Nov. 15, 2020, the opening day of deer hunting season. The order included a provision that stated noncompliance would result in recruiting the Michigan Attorney General to revoke the Iron Pig’s liquor license, food establishment license, and enforcement of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, as well as legal proceedings in either circuit or district court.
On Nov. 30, 2020, MIOSHA notified the Iron Pig that it had received a referral from a member of the public stating the establishment’s staff were not wearing masks, and the restaurant had not placed signs advising patrons to stay six feet apart and to wear masks.
The following month, an administrative law judge suspended the Iron Pig’s liquor license for 90 days. Two weeks later, according to the complaint filed Thursday by Iron Pig, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development suspended the restaurant’s food license.
A January 2021 court hearing determined that no cases of COVID-19 were attributed to the Iron Pig. The following month, owner Ian Murphy was found in contempt of court and fined. A subsequent appeal resulted in Otsego County Circuit Court Judge Colin G. Hunter ruling the emergency power enforcement was an unconstitutional delegation of power from the Legislative to the Executive branch.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, on behalf of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, appealed, alleging the OCCC ruling was “dangerous.” The application to appeal was denied by the Michigan Supreme Court. However, Court of Claims Judge Shapiro declared on May 25, 2022, that the delegation of Legislative power to the Executive branch is constitutional. As a result, MDHHS continued to pursue Iron Pig for alleged violations of the agency’s policies prohibiting indoor gatherings.
In December 2022, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Michigan Public Health Code established the power of an unelected local health employee to issue emergency public health orders. Last January, Otsego County Circuit Court Judge Colin Hunter ruled differently, writing, “… the unexercised but available use of the [health] director’s authority could conceivably reach and effect each and every political, social, moral or other societal problem if only the director determines that the concern can now be categorized as an ‘epidemic.’”
Iron Pig Smokehouse owner Ian Murphy recently joined Tudor Dixon’s Podcast to discuss Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdowns and his efforts to fight back. Listen here: