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Case Name Castillo v. Whitmer PR-MI-0006
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-00751 ( W.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Presidential/Gubernatorial Authority
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This is an an equal protection action filed on August 8, 2020 by a group of Latino individuals and two limited liability companies, seeking an injunction of an emergency health order mandating all migrant agricultural workers be tested for COVID-19. The court denied the plaintiffs' ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is an an equal protection action filed on August 8, 2020 by a group of Latino individuals and two limited liability companies, seeking an injunction of an emergency health order mandating all migrant agricultural workers be tested for COVID-19. The court denied the plaintiffs' motions for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction on August 14 and August 21, respectively. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. On September 8, the plaintiffs stipulated to a dismissal with prejudice and without costs or attorneys' fees to either party, which was approved by the district judge on September 9.


This case is about the constitutionality of a series of emergency orders issued by the State of Michigan during the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 29, 2020, the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, signed an executive order requiring those who provide housing for Michigan's migrant agricultural workers to implement plans to prevent their employees from contracting COVID-19. On August 3, the Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Robert Gordon, issued an emergency order mandating COVID-19 testing for migrant agricultural workers.

On August 8, a group of six Latino individuals and two limited liability companies filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The plaintiffs sued the Governor of Michigan, the Director of MDHHS, and the Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs sought preliminary and permanent injunctive relief against the defendants' orders that all migrant agricultural workers be mandated to take a COVID-19 test (Emergency Order). The plaintiffs also sought compensatory damages, attorneys' fees, and a declaration that the defendants violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Finally, the plaintiffs sought a declaration that the Director of MDHHS exceeded the scope of his statutory authority and a declaration that the governor and the Director of MDHHS violated the separation of powers established in the Michigan Constitution.

The plaintiffs amended their complaint on August 13, seeking class certification for all similarly situated plaintiffs. The plaintiffs outlined three classes that they sought to certify. Class 1 included all owners and operators of migrant housing camps licensed by MDARD, Class 2 included all residents of MDARD-licensed migrant housing camps, Class 3 included all agricultural employers in the state with over 20 workers on site at a time, and Class 4 included all workers of employed by Class 3.

On August 14, District Judge Paul L. Maloney denied the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order. In his order, the judge found that the plaintiffs did not establish likelihood of success on the merits. While the plaintiffs argued that the court should implement a strict scrutiny test to determine constitutionality because the Emergency Order disproportionately affected Latinos, the judge implemented a rational basis standard since the testing requirement applies to all agricultural workers in migrant housing camps, regardless of race. The judge then concluded that the plaintiffs did not rebut every conceivable basis for the Emergency Order. The judge also noted that the Emergency Order serves a legitimate public interest in its objective of slowing the spread of COVID-19. 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151354

On August 21, Judge Maloney denied the plaintiffs' motion for an emergency preliminary injunction. The judge used similar reasoning in his denial of the injunction as the temporary restraining order, reiterating that the plaintiffs did not show an intent to discriminate on the part of state officials. The judge again concluded that the Emergency Order is facially neutral, in terms of race. 2020 WL 5029586

On August 24, the plaintiffs filed an interlocutory appeal of the denial of a preliminary injunction in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The Sixth Circuit denied the motion for a preliminary injunction on September 2. The court found that for a facially neutral action to be found unconstitutionally discriminatory, the plaintiffs must establish an improper racially motivated purpose. The court agreed with the district court judge in his conclusion that the plaintiffs failed to establish discriminatory intent. The court also noted that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate irreparable harm, in absence of a constitutional violation. 823 Fed.Appx. 413

On September 3, the defendants moved to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. On September 8, plaintiffs stipulated to a dismissal with prejudice, which was approved by Judge Maloney on September 9. The stipulated dismissal provided that neither party was responsible for the other's costs or attorneys' fees. The case is now closed.

Nicholas Gillan - 12/27/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
State law
Defendant(s) The Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
The Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
The Governor of Michigan
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are several seasonal Latino agricultural workers and two limited liability companies in the fruit harvesting business in Michigan
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 08/11/2020
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
W.D. Mich.
09/09/2020
1:20-cv-00751-PLM-PJG
PR-MI-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
W.D. Mich.
08/11/2020
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PR-MI-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Mich.
08/13/2020
Amended Complaint [ECF# 17]
PR-MI-0006-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Mich.
08/14/2020
Order (2020 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 151354)
PR-MI-0006-0001.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
show all people docs
Judges Green, Phillip J. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-9000
Maloney, Paul Lewis (W.D. Mich.) show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-0001 | PR-MI-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Arthur, Seth B (Michigan) show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-0002 | PR-MI-0006-0003 | PR-MI-0006-9000
DeWaard, Ronald G (Michigan) show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-0002 | PR-MI-0006-0003 | PR-MI-0006-9000
Doyle, Brion Bannon (Michigan) show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-0002 | PR-MI-0006-0003 | PR-MI-0006-9000
Phelps, Aaron M (Michigan) show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-0002 | PR-MI-0006-0003 | PR-MI-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Allison-Yokom, Danielle (Michigan) show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-9000
Bennett, Katherine J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-9000
Sands, Mark (Michigan) show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-9000
Other Lawyers Bagenstos, Samuel R. (Michigan) show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-9000
Marin, Diana Eloina (Michigan) show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-9000
Primus, Richard (Michigan) show/hide docs
PR-MI-0006-9000

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