* Andrew Maloney at the Daily Law Bulletin…
A federal appeals court greeted the Illinois Republican Party’s challenge to the governor’s limit on public gatherings with skepticism this week.
A 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel had a barrage of questions Tuesday for the lawyer representing the state GOP, which claims it should be allowed to hold gatherings of more than 50 despite Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s pandemic guidelines to the contrary.
The Illinois Republicans and other Republican organizations claimed the Democratic governor’s orders violate the First Amendment because they carve out an exemption for churches. The plaintiffs also claim Pritzker created another exemption by endorsing protests against racial injustice.
But if the governor didn’t draw constitutional lines in his executive orders, the three judges asked, where should they be drawn?
Judge Diane P. Wood said if the Republican Party is exempt from the regulations, “I see no logical stopping point.”
* Lauraann Wood at Law360…
Counsel for the Illinois Republican Party urged a three-judge panel during oral argument to revive its bid to hold gatherings larger than the 50-person limit set in the latest coronavirus safety order, arguing the exemption for religious gatherings should apply to all protected First Amendment expression. But U.S. Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett said the party seems to be comparing its asserted speech rights to a group that has “an additional interest” under the amendment, which is the right to freely exercise religion. […]
Daniel Suhr of the Liberty Justice Center argued the party should receive the same exemption as religious groups because both religious and political speech rights “live at the heart of the First Amendment.” But Judge Barrett pushed back on that stance, saying the amendment itself treats free speech and free religious exercise “a little bit as apples and oranges” since they’re separated into two distinct categories. […]
U.S. Circuit Judge Amy St. Eve said the party’s argument leaves the court wondering where it would draw a line distinguishing First Amendment rights about political speech from First Amendment rights “about some other cause.”
Suhr argued in response that “it’s the governor’s job” to draw that line. But U.S. Circuit Judge Diane Wood quickly rebuffed that stance, saying it was the party’s job, “since you’re the one who’s attacking the governor’s executive order for not drawling the line that you think should have been drawn.”
“You should have some theory of relief,” she said.
There’s more in both stories, so click those linkies.