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Illinois GOP Sue Over State’s Ten-Person Gathering Cap (1)

June 16, 2020, 4:37 PM; Updated: June 16, 2020, 7:09 PM

The Illinois Republican Party has filed a legal challenge to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s (D) order that limits in-person gatherings to 10 individuals during the course of the coronavirus pandemic, telling a federal court the cap unlawfully abridges their First Amendment rights.

“There simply is no substitute for the energy, enthusiasm, personal connections to a candidate, and media coverage generated by a rally, a bus tour, or a fly-around,” the party said in its complaint, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Executive Order 2020-38 already carves out the “free exercise of religion” by its plain language. Pritzker has also declined to enforce the order’s restrictions against the recent protests against police brutality on the grounds that they’re exercising their First Amendment rights, the Party said.

“This is about scoring political points and criticizing civil rights protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. The courts have repeatedly upheld the Governor’s executive orders as based on public health guidance,” Pritzker’s press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh told Bloomberg Law when asked for comment. “And as the Republicans who attended protests against the public health guidance are well aware, the State has never prevented people from exercising their First Amendment rights.”

The Party is joined by a handful of other local Republican groups as plaintiffs. They moved for a temporary restraining order against the order’s enforcement as well, arguing that they’ll suffer irreparable harm if the court doesn’t act quickly.

The November 2020 election is mere months away, and political parties must be allowed to gather in large numbers for grassroots organizing, they said.

They want the court to declare that political party gatherings can’t be treated differently from religious gatherings under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. They also want the court to declare that several of Pritzker’s emergency declarations, which are the legal support for the executive order, don’t comply with the requirements of the Illinois Emergency Management Act.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office will handle the case going forward, Abudayyeh said.

Cause of Action: First and 14th Amendments; 42 U.S.C. §1983.

Relief: Declaratory and injunctive relief.

Attorneys: The Liberty Justice Center represents the political groups.

The case is Ill. Republican Party v. Pritzker, N.D. Ill., No. 20-cv-03489, complaint filed 6/15/20.

(Updated with comment from Gov. Pritzker's office.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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