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Michigan Supreme Court may be asked to hear case on COVID shutdown

Rick Pluta
Michigan Public Radio Network

The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld sanctions levied against a Holland restaurant owner who defied state and local COVID-19 shutdown orders. The court issued its decision Friday.

Marlena Pavlos-Hackney spent five days in jail and paid $15,000 in fines for refusing to shut down her walk-in restaurant, Marlena's Bistro and Pizzeria, as COVID cases in Michigan were on the rise in 2020 and 2021. She later took her case to court in Ingham County, seeking to have the judgement set aside and her fines refunded.

In a unanimous decision, the three-judge appeals panel held that Pavlos-Hackney ignored the administrative process she should have used and ignored court orders because she expected to prevail in the end. Many of the COVID restrictions issued by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration were ultimately ruled unconstitutional. But the court said the constitutionality of the restrictions were not the issue in Pavlos-Hackney’s case.

“Pavlos-Hackney elected to bypass the administrative and subsequent judicial processes that would have afforded her a full hearing on her constitutional claims,” said the opinion. “Instead, she deliberately violated two lawful court orders.”

Pavlos-Hackney’s food establishment license was restored in June of 2021 following a walk-through inspection by local officials, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“As always, MDARD is committed to ensuring that all food establishments remain compliant with the food law for the purposes of public health, safety, and welfare,” said Communications Director Jennifer Holton.

Reached at her restaurant Friday, Pavlos-Hackney said she intends to appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

“Justice will be served!” she said before hanging up the phone.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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