Hudsonville, MI asked in Health Care Law and Constitutional Law for Michigan

Q: Can a county health department issue orders that citizens must abide by?

1 Lawyer Answer
Michael Zamzow
Michael Zamzow
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: There are limits (not at all addressed below), but generally yes. Public health rule making is regarded as one of the Police Powers.

The US Constitution reserves the Police Powers to the states (Tenth Amendment), although limited by the supremacy clause (Article VI, paragraph 2, and not discussed here).

As said by the United States Supreme Court, the Police Powers includes "public safety, public health, morality, peace and quiet, law and order." As a few of "the more conspicuous examples of the traditional application of the police power to municipal affairs." And continued by acknowledging the list "merely illustrate[s] the scope of the power and do not delimit it." Berman v Parker, 348 US 26, 32 (1954).

The Supreme Court of Michigan had a similar boundless definition, of Police Powers in 1914 as "a power or organization of a system of regulations tending to the health, order, convenience, and comfort of the people and to the prevention and punishment of injuries and offenses to the public." People v Brazee, 183 Mich 259, 262 (1914) (Although the definition did not stop there).

Consistent between the definitions over the centuries, public health has been included.

The State of Michigan's legislative authority might be found here:

MCL 333.2433(2) A local health department shall: (a) Implement and enforce laws for which responsibility is vested in the local health department.

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