State prosecutors have dropped charges against a Michigan barber who refused to close his doors past the 28-day limit of emergency orders afforded to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the state constitution.
Karl Manke, 78, reopened his barber shop on May 4 in defiance of the governor's orders, which have since been deemed illegal and unconstitutional by the state's Supreme Court. Following his actions, Manke was targeted by the state, which stripped his license temporarily stripped. The Court of Appeals said he must shut down – a ruling that was quickly overturned by Michigan's Supreme Court.
"This [lockdown] has absolutely brought me to my knees," Manke said when he first reopened. "I just couldn't do that. I'm a small business owner. [Whitmer] has no concept at all of the damage she's doing to this state, and to families."
The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Court of Appeals, with Justice David Viviano cautioning them to not let "the rule of law" become "yet another casualty of COVID-19."
Despite the ruling, Manke still had misdemeanor charges pending against him for violating local health orders and Whitmer's orders. Those charges have now been dropped.
Scott Koerner, the prosecuting attorney in the case, said that the decision to drop the charges came after the Supreme Court's ruling on Whitmer's orders.
"Based on that ruling, we didn't feel the charges could go forward," said Koerner.
One Manke's attorneys, David Kallman, says his client is "pleased that he's been vindicated." When asked about the health consequences of his client's actions in regards to the pandemic, Kallman suggested there have been no concerns justifying the disruption of Manke's business.
"All this time, he's been doing it for months, and there's not been a single person that has been diagnosed with the COVID virus or who has been to his place with the virus or anything," said Kallman. "It's not been an issue."
Manke is still fighting the Whitmer administration regarding a formal complaint record listed on his license. He is scheduled to return to court November 19.