Victory In Court For Michigan Barber In State's Bid To Close Shop

Karl Manke
Photo credit Owosso barber, Karl Manke, gives a speech before cutting hair for free on the steps of the state Capitol during Operation Haircut on May 20, 2020 in Lansing, Michigan. The event was a protest planned by the Michigan Conservative Coalition in response to an Owosso barber, Karl Manke, whose business license was taken away after he violated the stay-at-home order by reopening. (Photo by Elaine Cromie/Getty Images)
By WWJ Newsradio 950

(WWJ/AP) It's a legal victory for a Michigan barber who continued with his business despite the state lockdown.

A judge ruled Thursday that as the state health department sought an injunction to keep the business closed, it failed to show that Karl Manke's shop in Owosso was a specific threat to public health amid the coronavirus outbreak. Shiawassee County Judge Matthew Stewart today rejected the injunction.

However, the state suspended Manke's license in a separate action.

Manke, who reopened his shop on May 4, was charged with a 90-day misdemeanor for violating local health department regulations and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order — one of dozens issued amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Manke said he was a little afraid what would happen when he reopened his shop on May 4, but he just had to do it. “I’d gone six weeks without a paycheck with no money coming in. I’ve been in this business 59 years...I’m 77; I’ve always worked,” Manke told reporters. 

Speaking to WWJ Newsraio 950 last week, Manke's attorney, David Kallman, called the case against his client "ridiculous."

"I mean, our whole constitutional system and everything's getting turned on its head  — all in the name of good intentions and trying to stop a virus that everyone knows can't be stopped in the sense that they're taking about," Kallman said, 

Manke was among about a dozen barbers and hair stylists who defied stay-at-home orders to give free haircuts in an unorthodox demonstration at the State Capitol Wednesday. Michigan State Police said they cited seven people who ignored troopers' orders to stop for disorderly conduct — engaging in an illegal occupation or business. It's unclear if Manke was one of the people ticketed.

During a visit to Midland to address flooding this week, Whitmer she understands the protesters' frustration.

“But the more people moving about and flouting the law, the harder it’s going to be turn the dial and take the next step. ...In the midst of a global pandemic, what I ask is that people do so in a way that does not expose themselves or others to a prolonged public health crisis," Whitmer said.

It's unclear if, or how the judge's order may impact other barber shops.