FILE - Darren Bailey, face mask, Virus Outbreak Illinois Legislature

Illinois state Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, wears a face mask as he confers with a staff member at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield, Ill., during the spring legislative session Thursday, May 21, 2020. Bailey was removed from the floor Wednesday for not complying with House rules that required face coverings. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – The U.S. Department of Justice said it will support state Rep. Darren Bailey's challenge to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order. 

Justice Department attorneys filed a statement of interest in the case in federal court late Friday. Bailey, R-Xenia, filed a lawsuit in Clay County Circuit Court in April challenging the governor's stay-at-home order. A judge initially granted a temporary restraining order in the case, freeing Bailey from the statewide restrictions put in place from the governor. 

A hearing on the motion for summary judgment was scheduled to take place in Clay County on Friday. However, attorneys for the state of Illinois moved the case to federal district court.

"The Governor of Illinois owes it to the people of Illinois to allow his state’s courts to adjudicate the question of whether Illinois law authorizes orders he issued to respond to COVID-19," Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband said. "Under our system, all public officials, including governors, must comply with the law, especially during times of crisis. The Department of Justice remains committed to defending the rule of law and the American people at all times, especially during this difficult time as we deal with COVID-19 pandemic."

The Justice Department said the case should be moved back to state court. 

"It is up to the Illinois courts to rule on Plaintiff’s claims, which, because of the sweeping nature of the Orders, may affect millions of lives and raise significant constitutional concerns in other litigation," federal attorneys wrote in the statement of interest.

"Even during times of crisis, executive actions undertaken in the name of public safety must be lawful," said Steven Weinhoeft, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. "And while the people of Illinois must be physically protected from the effects of this public health crisis, including by complying with CDC guidelines their constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties must be safeguarded as well."

Pritzker has repeatedly said his stay-at-home order was within his emergency powers under state laws. He has also said that if people don't follow the stay-at-home order, more people will get sick and more people will die.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has reported a total of 105,444 cases of COVID-19, including 4,715 deaths, in 100 of the state's 102 counties, as of Friday.

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