Michigan Court Orders Defiant Barber to Close Shop

Barber Karl Manke, gives a free haircut on the steps of the State Capitol during a rally in Lansing, Mich., on May 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT (CN) — The Michigan Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered a mid-state barber to shut down his shop, reversing a county judge who found the business was not a threat to public health despite reopening in defiance of the governor’s lockdown order.

Judge Matthew Stewart of Shiawassee County Circuit Court had refused to order 77-year-old Karl Manke to shut down his barbershop – located in Owosso, about 70 miles north of Detroit – at the request of the state, which aims to slow the spread of Covid-19. The respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus has killed more than 100,000 Americans.

But the Court of Appeals said Stewart was wrong and returned the case to his court to issue an injunction and have Manke “cease all operations.”

“Uncontroverted evidence revealed that Covid-19 is spread by infected persons showing no symptoms that could serve to warn others of the possibility of infection,” the eight-page order states. “Covid-19 can be spread from person-to-person quickly and reach people separate from an area of contamination.”

It continued, “From this record, the trial court should have concluded that the risk that the party seeking the injunction would be harmed more by the absence of an injunction than the opposing party would be by the granting of the relief.”

Judge Stephen Borrello, appointed to the court in 2003 by then-Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm, was joined in the decision by Judge Amy Ronayne Krause, who was appointed in 2010 by then-Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican.

Judge Brock Swartzle, appointed by Snyder in 2017, partially disagreed with the order for an injunction and argued the court should have ordered an “expedited hearing on the merits of the dispute.”

Manke disagreed with the ruling and vowed to resist. His lawyer David Kallman said he would appeal the case to the Michigan Supreme Court. 

Kallman argued in the past that this was a First Amendment issue and Manke had a right to protest.

“I could care less,” Manke told the Associated Press. “If they want to put me in jail, put me in jail. … I will be governed — fair governing — but not ruled. This is a police state action.”

Manke was ticketed when he reopened his barbershop in the beginning of May and his license was eventually suspended by the state.

Nonetheless, shaggy customers drove from near and far to get a cut and also defy Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders. Manke also gave free haircuts with other hairstylists in a protest at the state Capitol last week.

Whitmer’s orders have spurred other protests at the Capitol, including by gun-toting demonstrators. The restrictions also drew a lawsuit from a Republican congressman who claims they overstep the boundaries of executive authority.

The restrictions are set to expire on June 12.

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