CHICAGO (March 29, 2021) – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined a request from the Illinois Republican Party and three local party committees for equal treatment under Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Executive Order limiting the size of gatherings. The order comes as most Illinoisans continue to live under arbitrary constraints on their fundamental constitutional rights.
Attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, a national, nonprofit, public-interest law firm represent the Republican groups.
“We are disappointed in today’s order and will continue to fight to restore and protect constitutional rights,” said Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center.
Background: The Illinois Republican Party and three local Republican party committees filed a federal lawsuit against Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker over his ban on gatherings of 50 or more people. The lawsuit, Illinois Republican Party v. Pritzker, was filed June 16, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The Illinois Republican Party, Schaumburg Township Republican Organization, Northwest Side GOP Club and Will County Republican Central Committee are represented by attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, the Chicago-based public interest law firm that won a landmark First Amendment case at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.
In July 2020, the governor marched in and endorsed large-scale rallies with crowds numbering in the thousands, yet other political speech groups including the Republicans are banned from gathering under Pritzker’s Executive Order. The case also highlighted the different treatment of political speech from religious speech under the Governor’s order, even though both types of speech are protected by the First Amendment.
The lawsuit highlights the selectivity and arbitrary nature of Pritzker’s Executive Order regarding group gatherings. Some groups can exercise their First Amendment rights, while others face restrictions and the threat of criminal penalties for violating the governor’s order.
Illinois Republican Party v. Pritzker is one of four lawsuits the Liberty Justice Center filed in 2020 against Gov. Pritzker over constitutional violations during the coronavirus pandemic. First, Liberty Justice Center attorneys represented Salem Media and journalist Amy Jacobson in Salem Media v. Pritzker after the governor banned Jacobson from press briefings. In a victory for First Amendment rights, the governor’s office reversed its decision and reinstated Jacobson’s press credentials. In another case, the Liberty Justice Center represents the Illinois Right to Life in a challenge to the governor’s ban on gatherings. Finally, attorneys represented the Cook County Republican Party to halt a new program broadly expanding vote-by-mail under the guise of protecting Illinoisans from contracting COVID-19.
Case fillings are available here: https://libertyjusticecenter.org/cases/illinois-republican-party-v-pritzker