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Michigan Barber Has License Restored. ‘Bout Daggone Time.

You may remember the story of Karl Manke, a 77 year old barber in Owosso, Michigan who was the target of the wrath of the State of Michigan when he opened his barbershop because he was denied unemployment three times. Needing income, Manke became a symbol of people who felt the government, particularly that of Governor Whitmer in Michigan, was overstepping its bounds by quite a bit.

For example Whitmer’s orders to “prevent” the spread of COVID-19 included such ideas that people could go to WalMart to get food, but they could not go to the same store to get a grill on which to cook that food. People could go to a store to get parts for such things a plumbing repairs, but could not by paint to paint houses or rooms. People could not purchase seeds to grow food which, of course, would have reduced the number of trips to a grocery store to get food or at the very least reduced the purchases being made. Our favorite was that Michigan residents who had vacation homes in Northern Michigan could not travel to those homes but people from out of state could go to their vacation homes in the same area. (Unless, of course, you are the governor and her family. Then traveling to northern Michigan was okay.)

It was Manke who caught the national attention. Unlike people with money or whatever, Manke personified the blue collar worker whose business Whitmer had shut down, but offered him no alternative income.

When Manke reopened his shop, the State of Michigan came down hard on him. The government sought to arrest him, but was blocked by local law enforcement unwilling to co-operate with the Governor’s henchman, as well as by protestors who refused to let law enforcement into the shop so papers could be served. The government then sought a “cease and desist” order for the shop which was denied by a judge on the basis he wanted to hear more evidence. That was appealed to the State Supreme Court which told the lower court to hold a hearing by a certain date. The lower court held a hearing and ruled in favor of Manke, which infuriated the government further.

In their anger that one man was standing up to them because he wanted to eat and pay his bills, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs [LARA] suspended Manke’s license without a hearing.

Manke’s response was basically “license? I don’t need no stinkin’ license” and he continued to cut hair.

While Manke was offering his services, his lawyers were busy as well. They filed motions to have the government hold a hearing or give Manke his license back. The hearing would most likely have been held in front of the same judge who had ruled against the State earlier.

Sensing the way the wind was blowing, Michigan threw in the towel and restored Manke’s license.

OWOSSO — An Owosso barber who defied the governor’s stay-at-home order and opened his shop for customers in May had his license restored Wednesday, according to his attorney.

Karl Manke, 77, opened his shop May 4, becoming a cause célèbre for people who opposed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order.

He attracted national attention for remaining open despite the many legal hurdles — a cease and desist order, two misdemeanor charges and the suspension of his license — thrown his way.

“I am pleased with the orders issued today to reinstate my licenses so I can continue to move forward,” Manke said in a statement provided by his attorney. “I still believe it is high time for all of Michigan to Stand Up, Open Up for business, and for all the people in our community to Show Up in support.”

The Attorney General’s Office filed a motion to restore his license on Monday.

Manke is still facing misdemeanor criminal charges for violating Whitmer’s executive order and orders from the health department in Shiawassee County. A formal complaint filed by the state also remains pending.

While we are thrilled with the decision, we are not happy that Michigan is still coming after this man. We suspect that they will be hoping the furor over he and his shop will have died down when his hearings are heard, but we suspect that won’t happen. But there is something else as well.

Whitmer’s orders suspended “all non-essential workers” from working. Yet that didn’t seem to include lawyers and regulators who came after Manke. We would argue that if you think that going after a 77 year old barber is an “essential activity,” you don’t have a clue as to what “essential” means. Secondly, it is the people of Michigan who are paying for the prosecution (and persecution) of Manke. Whitmer doesn’t have to pay for the costs of her legal team. The lawyers and regulators are getting paid by tax dollars.

It is Manke who is footing the bill for his defense.

We’ve often stated “the process is the penalty,” and that is true here.

Manke, the guy who wanted to open his shop up so he could eat and pay bills, is now being forced to pay more by the State in order to protect what many people consider a natural or God given right: the right to make a living. (Not the right to a job. That’s different.)

In the end, even assuming the State wins all the cases and hearing against Manke, what has the State gained? What have the people of Michigan gained?

We would argue that the State and people have gained nothing of positive value. There will be those who will say that if the State wins, they will have increased their ability to control the lives of people.

That’s not a positive thing.

The State and the actors in this horror play are protected by the doctrine of “sovereign immunity,” so they cannot be touched.

Unlike Manke and the people, they have nothing to lose by continually trying to stomp on the people and the people’s rights.

Maybe it is time to change that.

Congrats to Manke and his lawyer for getting his license back.



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