SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, Mich. (WEYI) – For now, Owosso barber Karl Manke can keep his shop open for business.
Shiawassee County Circuit Court Judge Matthew J Stewart ruled that the state failed to convince him that Manke's shop remaining open is an "imminent threat" to the public.
On May 8 Manke was served notice by the state that he was in violation of the law and Governor Gretchen Whitmer's Executive Orders by reopening his barbershop during the pandemic.
Today, each side had its say in court.
The lawyer for the State of Michigan, Joseph Potchen, argued that due to the COVID-19 crisis, the barbershop needed to be closed. His shop remaining open, said Potchen, is an "imminent threat" to public health.
Manke's lawyer, David Kallman, responded that there is no proof that Manke's barbershop is a specific threat to public health. He agreed that COVID-19 can be deadly, but disagreed that the state could prove that the barbershop spread the virus.
In the end, Judge Stewart didn't believe the state proved to him the shop needed to be shut down by his court order. He pointed out that if the state really believed the barbershop posed a threat, police could have arrested Manke when they saw him cutting hair. Yet the state police who served Manke notice, and the state, allowed him to continue working while a civil action was taken.
The judge also felt there wasn't sufficient proof that the barbershop was indeed a threat to public health.
While judge Stewart said his decision was a "close call" in the end he sided with Manke.
This doesn't end all legal action against Manke. The state can continue to pursue the case against him, however, the court will not shut down the barbershop while that case proceeds.
The Attorney General's Office made this statement:
"The Court of Appeals retained jurisdiction over this case when it ordered the trial court to hold a hearing so the Court of Appeals is where this matter will ultimately be decided. We look forward to having our day in that court."