- The Washington Times
Friday, May 29, 2020

A Michigan barber is taking his fight over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s strict coronavirus shutdown orders to the state Supreme Court.

The appeal to the high court automatically halted a restraining order from a state appeals court that would have shuttered Karl Manke’s barbershop in Owosso.

Mr. Manke, 77, has become a hero of foes of strict stay-at-home rules imposed by Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat.

Mr. Manke said he was facing bankruptcy and re-opened his barbershop in defiance of her orders, triggering a court battle that has been winding through state courts.

A Shiawassee County Circuit Court judge last week declined to enforce the Whitmer administration’s request for a temporary restraining order. The state took the case to the Michigan Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel issued a 2-1 ruling Thursday that overturned the circuit court’s decision.

The appeals court sent it back to the Shiawassee county judge and issued an injunction for Mr. Manke to “to immediately cease all operations.”

David Kallman, the lawyer representing Mr. Manke, said the appeals court violated a state law requiring a unanimous decision to reverse a trial judge.

It’s a point he plans to argue to the state Supreme Court.

“We are astounded that the court of appeals majority would issue a decision that so clearly violates the law and court rules,” said Mr. Kallman. “This appeal to the Supreme Court will allow Mr. Manke to be heard so that he can continue to exercise his constitutional right to speak out and earn a living and to keep his barbershop open in a safe and responsible manner.”

The appeal, which was filed late Thursday, temporarily halted the case and restored the county judge’s order in Mr. Manke’s favor.

He was behind his barber’s chair Thursday and Friday.

After nearly 60 years in barber business, Mr. Manke has emerged as an unlikely folk hero. Last week, in a demonstration that organizers dubbed “Operation Haircut,” he and others gathered in Lansing and Mr. Manke cut hair atop the capital steps. He has also had protests in his Owosso shop, which local law enforcement said they could not spare the resources to keep shut down.

For the moment, however, his scissors work lacks a state license as a result of a separate legal matter. A state administrative board run by the governor’s office stripped Mr. Manke of his operational license without a hearing. That revocation was upheld by an administrative judge earlier this week

“It wasn’t the judge’s fault - he even said he is appointed by the governor and doesn’t have any authority to overrule her,” Mr. Kallman said. “But we are appealing that, too, today.”

Such an appeal would be filed before Shiawassee County Circuit Judge Matthew Stewart, the same one whose ruling for Mr. Manke was temporarily overturned by the divided appeals court panel.

“But, as the dissenting judge there noted, they can’t do that,” Mr. Kallman argued. “It’s called a ‘correctory reversal,’ and it is only supposed to happen when it is a real serious issue and it is 3-0 with the judges.”

The timing of all the various motions was unclear Friday afternoon. Mr. Kallman asked the Supreme Court for an expedited hearing, which could happen as early as next week, and Mr. Stewart could either rule from the bench or call for a hearing on the license matter.

For now, Mr. Manke’s shop is open.

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