Thursday, May 21, 2020

Coronavirus Update 5-21-2020: Ohio judge grants Pyrrhic victory to gyms closed by Stay at Home Order

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law sued the State of Ohio on behalf of 35 gyms forced to close because of Ohio's Stay of Home Order, claiming that the forced closure violated their constitutional rights. Yesterday, Judge Eugene Lucci of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas agreed. He issued a preliminary injunction temporarily halting the State's application of the Stay at Home Order against them.  

This is the key language of the opinion:

The director has quarantined the entire people of the state of Ohio.... The director has no statutory authority to close all businesses, including the plaintiffs' gyms, which she deems non-essential for a period of two months. She has acted in an impermissibly arbitrary, unreasonable, and oppressive manner and without any procedural safeguards.

According to 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson, "Constitutions are written to prevent governments from arbitrarily interfering in citizens’ lives and businesses. On that front, the call to action is clear: the Governor and Health Director may no longer impose their own closures and regulations and write their own criminal penalties to enforce those regulations and closures."

This victory, however, is temporary and meaningless. Ohio has already announced that gyms will be permitted to reopen May 26. 

It's also likely not legally supportable under applicable United States Supreme Court precedent—Jacobson v. Mass.—the 1905 case which upheld the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws and articulated that individual liberty is not absolute and is subject to the police power of the state.

So, 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, enjoy your victory while it lasts. It becomes meaningless in five days, and almost certainly won't survive an appeal if the State of Ohio chooses to file one. 

* Photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash