Court could force Illinois to pay businesses for Pritzker closures

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By Greg Bishop | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – An attorney suing the governor on behalf of businesses impacted by COVID-19 executive orders that shut down parts of the economy said when the government takes something, it must pay just compensation and he wants a jury to determine what the compensation should be.

Attorney Alan Bruggeman of Mokena represents businesses impacted by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home orders and subsequent COVID-19 restrictions. He said it’s about fairness.

The federal lawsuit includes restaurateurs, salon owners, vehicle maintenance shops and others who claim they were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 executive orders in Illinois. Bruggeman said the case is important because the state can’t just decide what business is and isn’t essential as the orders did.

“They weren’t dealing with just infected people,” Bruggeman said. “They were dealing with businesses. They were dealing with people who had no illness. And we’re not in any different position with businesses that were not shut down and other employees who didn’t lose their jobs.”

He said many of the businesses may not open again.

Since the beginning of March in Illinois, there have been about 1.5 million workers who filed for unemployment benefits, driven mainly by the government’s response shutting down sectors of the economy to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Bruggeman said the issue is also about fairness as there are countless examples of an independent clothing store being ordered closed to the public while a big box store that sold groceries could get away with selling clothes.

The state through the Illinois Attorney General motioned to have the case dismissed. In one count in the motion to dismiss, the Illinois Attorney General said “Plaintiffs’ claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment as Plaintiffs cannot seek damages in Federal Court against the State or the Governor in his official capacity.”

Bruggeman said he expects to survive the motion. He said he doesn’t want a federal judge to determine the penalty. He wants a jury trial to determine the compensation for the businesses. He said such a move will make sure the outcome is as neutral as possible.

“And it won’t be just controlled by the governor who might favor one political party over another or who might favor people who contribute to his campaign, or who might just have his cronies and people he wants to favor more than others,” Bruggeman said. “That’s why a jury trial might be more fair for everyone.”

Bruggeman is also looking to make a class action lawsuit out of the federal case.

He has until Aug. 31 to respond to the motion to dismiss with a hearing date set for Dec. 1.

Similar so-called takings lawsuits have been filed in other states.

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