Suit seeks stop to COVID-19 mandates
A restaurant interest group is suing Nevada County and state officials hoping to end COVID-19 mandates and win damages over $1.5 million.
According to the suit, the Nevada County Restaurant Coalition, along with Friar Tuck’s and Old Town Cafe, are claiming the pandemic executive and public health orders have violated their constitutional rights to due process, free speech, and equal protection under the law.
The suit, among others, names Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, former interim Public Health Officer Richard Johnson, as well as County Counsel Kit Elliott and Environmental Health Officer Amy Irani as defendants.
The plaintiffs claim because the state orders were made through executive action, their due process rights were violated. They also claim the state created an “arbitrary” and unequal system by naming some businesses as essential and other non-essential, thereby treating businesses unfairly.
In a motion to dismiss, the defendants argue the case has no standing because Nevada County itself has no restrictions on the plaintiffs’ commercial activity.
“We have no local health order,” Elliott said. “We’re acting under the requirements of the state.”
A judge hasn’t yet ruled on the motion to dismiss, which was heard in court this month.
According to Elliott, there is no timeline for when the motion to dismiss may be ruled on.
Ken Paige, spokesperson for the restaurant coalition, declined to comment.
On Friday the coalition filed a response to a county filing in support of the motion to dismiss.
The suit, filed late last year, claims the county had a direct hand in violating its free speech and equal protection rights.
The plaintiffs allege their free speech was infringed on when the county asked the group to stop organizing against the mandates as part of negotiations to lower fines levied against the non-complaint businesses.
According to Elliott and the county’s motion to dismiss, the restaurant had no constitutional right to the lowered fines in the first place, and the request for the group “to behave” was part of normal negotiations.
The plaintiffs also claim they were treated unfairly because other businesses that were operating out of compliance were not issued a notice of violation as they were.
In a motion to dismiss the suit, the county argues to meet the standard of unequal treatment, the selective enforcement must be “malicious, irrational or plainly arbitrary.”
“The mere presence of selective enforcement does not make the enforcement irrational and, without more, cannot support an equal protection discriminatory enforcement claim,” the motion reads.
Similarly, Elliott said a claim of “uncompensated takings” had no standing because while the county restricted the use of a business, it did not take the property.
The motion also argues for Elliott and Irani to be removed from the suit, as they were acting in their official roles with the county.
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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