Michigan's top court throws out orders against Owosso barber

Posted at 1:10 PM, Jun 06, 2020

DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday overturned orders that directed a barber to close his shop during the coronavirus pandemic, with one justice saying judges need to follow the “rule of law, not hysteria.”

The Michigan appeals court made mistakes in telling a local judge to shut down Karl Manke’s shop in Owosso, 40 miles (65 kilometers) northeast of Lansing, the Supreme Court said.

On May 4, Manke stopped complying with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order to keep barbershops and salons closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In response, the state suspended his licenses. It also got a preliminary injunction from the appeals court.

But Justice David Viviano said the 2-1 injunction needed to be unanimous under Michigan court rules. In addition, he said there should have been a full briefing and oral arguments.

“It is incumbent on the courts to ensure decisions are made according to the rule of law, not hysteria. ... One hopes that this great principle — essential to any free society, including ours — will not itself become yet another casualty of COVID-19,” Viviano said.

Viviano’s remarks were his own, although no one on the Supreme Court dissented from the brief order overturning the appeals court decision.

“We’re thrilled,” said Manke’s attorney, David Kallman.

Manke, 77, has continued defiantly cutting hair despite the injunction and license suspensions. He even gave free haircuts during a Capitol protest on May 20.

The attorney general’s office said it’s prepared to return to court to argue the health risks of keeping Manke’s shop open, although the governor announced Friday that barbershops and salons can reopen June 15.

Kallman said he’ll next ask a Shiawassee County judge to freeze the state license suspensions.

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