On what basis is the law?
The Founding Fathers realized that a free press was absolutely crucial to a constitutional democracy. Because of this, the press possesses the absolute obligation to monitor the activity of government and inform the public as to those activities. It because of this absolute obligation that the Daily Mining Gazette feels compelled to call upon the Houghton County Prosecuting Attorney, Brittany Bulleit, to justify her actions involving just one business, in the city of Houghton, which she singled out on the basis of an article she read.
When Mike and Stacy Kowalczyk opened their Houghton store, Otter River Outfitters, last week, the Daily Mining Gazette published an article focusing on what precautions and safeguards the owners were undertaking to protect their customers from contracting the coronavirus. The intent of the article was not that a business opened, or that it violated an executive order (other businesses had already done that), but rather to offer suggestions of precautions other businesses might take when re-opening. The article appeared in the Monday, May 18, edition of the DMG. Tuesday afternoon, an officer with the Houghton Police Department was sent to the store with instructions from Bulleit to order Mr. Kowalczyk to shut his store, as he was in violation of the governor’s executive order that all “non-essential” businesses in Michigan remain closed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Mr. Kowalczyk, in turn, re-opened his store the next day. Thursday morning, the police were again sent back to the store, again under the instructions of Ms. Bulleit, this time to file a police report on Kowalczyk re-opening after being ordered to shut down.
In conducting several interviews with the police, the DMG was told repeatedly that Bulleit said she was acting in response to the article. When the DMG inquired whether other businesses had received similar orders or attention from the prosecutor’s office, the officers replied no, and that, again, Bulleit was acting in response to the DMG article, as if the DMG was responsible for her actions.
Mr. Kowalczyk, in turn, said he would not comply with either the governor’s order, or that of the prosecutor’s, because no other business in Houghton had been ordered to close, further stating that the actions of Bulleit against his business solely based on the DMG article, are discriminatory and biased.
The Daily Mining Gazette agrees with Mr. Kowalczyk.
Bulleit’s actions against Mr. Kowalczyk compel the DMG to inquire if she, as a criminal prosecutor for Houghton County, believes she can target a business to the exclusion of others for violations of an executive order, simply because Mr. Kowalczyk spoke to the press?
Whatever her reasons, they certainly cannot be based on the question of Gov. Whitmer’s executive order closing all non-essential businesses during the coronavirus being in violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Gov. Whitmer’s order does not provide for equal protection under the law. Several “box stores,” such as Wal-Mart and Target, have been exempt from closure orders, while privately owned, local retail shops, like Otter River Outfitters, that have been ordered closed. This is not equal protection under the law, but rather suggests favoritism.
This should be basic legal knowledge to any attorney, let alone a prosecutor.