|Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at Idaho’s decision to remain in Phase Four of reopening, New York’s announcement that casinos can reopen next week, a lawsuit involving COVID-19 restrictions in Minnesota, and much more. Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.
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Daily feature: Featured lawsuit
Once a week, we take a closer look at a noteworthy lawsuit involving governmental responses to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. We define a noteworthy lawsuit as one that has garnered significant media attention, involves major advocacy groups, or deals with unique legal questions. This week, we look at a lawsuit involving COVID-19 restrictions in Minnesota.
Free Minnesota Small Business Coalition v. Walz
On Sept. 1, Judge Thomas Gilligan of Minnesota’s Ramsey County District Court dismissed a lawsuit 13 Republican lawmakers and a group of small businesses filed challenging Gov. Tim Walz’s (D) COVID-19-related executive orders.
What is at issue?
The plaintiffs alleged the orders were legislative actions, which cannot be delegated to the governor according to the state constitution’s nondelegation doctrine. The plaintiffs further alleged that Walz exceeded his statutory authority under the Minnesota Emergency Management Act, saying that public health is not a permissible rationale for invoking emergency powers. Lastly, the plaintiffs said that Walz’s orders treated similarly situated businesses differently, violating the equal protection guarantee.
How did the court rule?
Gilligan dismissed the suit, writing, “[The] Governor has acted pursuant to the authority delegated to him by the Legislature. … [The] COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an act of nature that provides the Governor with the basis to declare a peacetime state of emergency in Minnesota.” Gilligan said that subjecting the governor’s emergency actions to “a notice and comment period, public hearings, and review by an administrative law judge” would be “cumbersome and unreasonable.”
What were the reactions, and what comes next?
The lead plaintiffs said they “will continue the fight, by all means necessary to restore the voice and will of the People, through their representatives in the legislature, to decision-making in state government.” They also set up a fundraising campaign to pay for an appeal. Walz has not commented publicly on the suit.
In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic.