BREAKING: Judge rules in favor of Michigan barber, refuses to order barber shop to shut down

77 year old barber Karl Manke just notched another legal victory, but the Michigan Attorney General is warning they will appeal.

LansingStateJournal reports an Owosso barber who has kept his shop open despite a suspended license and a cease and desist order from the state will not have to close, a Shiawassee County judge ruled Thursday.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office filed a request for an emergency temporary restraining order against barber Karl Manke when he refused to close his shop after receiving two citations — one for violating the governor’s executive stay-home order and another from the county health department.

Shiawassee County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart decided Thursday not to grant the attorney general’s request, allowing Manke to stay open.


Manke has become a cause célèbre for those who oppose Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-home orders and want the state to reopen. He inspired a protest at the Capitol Wednesday, called “Operation Haircut.”

Although his license is suspended, Manke was on the Capitol grounds cutting hair Wednesday.

Stewart said the decision was a “close call” in an opinion issued Thursday.

He said it makes sense at face value that putting people close together for prolonged amounts of time poses a public health risk, but the attorney general’s office failed to say how Manke’s shop was a risk.

Although Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said in an affidavit that Manke’s shop was a public health threat, Stewart said she gave no reasons why.

“(The attorney general) has not presented any studies underlying the doctor’s conclusion. (The attorney general) has not shown any nexus between the cutting of hair and an increased risk of transmission,” Stewart wrote in his opinion. “(The attorney general’s) filings rest more on general facts about COVID-19 than specific practices or conditions at (Manke’s) business.”

Stewart said, while the attorney general’s office maintains that “every second (Manke) operates constitutes a new irreparable injury,” the fact that the office sought a civil remedy instead of a criminal one — Manke could be arrested for violating the stay-home order — detracted from its argument.

Attorney general’s office spokesperson Ryan Jarvi said the office plans to appeal Stewart’s decision.

“The Court of Appeals retained jurisdiction over this case when it ordered the trial court to hold a hearing so the Court of Appeals is where this matter will ultimately be decided. We look forward to having our day in that court,” the office said in a statement.