"However well-intentioned they may be, the executive orders appear to reach far beyond the scope of the 30-day emergency authority granted to the Governor under IL law", said Steven Weinhoeft, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of IL.
The Illinois Attorney General's office has filed a request that the lawsuit filed against Governor J.B. Pritzker by St. Rep. Darren Bailey be transferred to Federal Court.
Bailey, a Republican from Xenia, gained national attention earlier this month when he sued Pritzker, then won a temporary restraining order that exempted only himself from the rules.
"The Department of Justice remains committed to defending the rule of law and the American people at all times, especially during this hard time as we deal with COVID-19 pandemic", he added.
The Justice Department said its filing was part of Attorney General William Barr's initiative in late April directing his civil rights division and a US attorney in MI to review state and local government policies related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Thomas DeVore, attorney for Bailey and businesses across IL that are challenging Pritzker's orders, said Thursday the state's motion "could perhaps be the most disreputable invocation of federal jurisdiction ever seen in modern times".
On Tuesday, the Justice Department sent a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, saying his lockdown orders discriminated against religious freedom by prohibiting indoor services while allowing some workplaces, including film studios, to reopen.
Because Bailey's complaint alleges a violation of constitutional rights, the IL attorney general's office argued that the federal court has jurisdiction.
A hearing on a motion filed by Bailey seeking summary judgment in his case had been scheduled to take place on Thursday, but Pritzker instead moved the case to federal court, the department said.
Mr. Bailey has countered that he is challenging Mr. Pritzker's stay-at-home orders not on the basis of constitutional issues but because, he claims, they exceed the governor's emergency powers.
"While this case is important, it does not rise under federal law and thus falls outside this court's jurisdiction", Weinhoeft wrote.
In the statement of interest filed on Friday, the DOJ said the dispute belongs in IL state court and that Bailey has raised substantial questions as to whether the governor's current response to COVID-19 is lawful.
President Donald Trump, a Republican who had staked his November 3 re-election bid to the once-robust USA economy, has repeatedly agitated for a swift reopening of business activity brought to a virtual standstill by coronavirus lockdowns.