Federal Judge Denies Request by Business Owners to Block Governor’s Executive Orders

A United States federal court judge has denied a request filed by a diverse group of business owners to temporarily block Governor Kate Brown’s stay-home executive orders.

The lawsuit was filed last week by Portland attorney James Buchal and Canby attorney Tyler Smith, on behalf of business owners who have been directly or indirectly impacted by the Covid-19 shutdowns, and who claim the governor’s coronavirus executive orders are unfair, unconstitutional and unnecessary.

The attorneys had requested an emergency injunction that would have prevented the governor from enforcing her executive orders until the case has run its course. They say the governor’s rules for closing some businesses to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and not others are “inherently arbitrary,” and that her orders should “shock the conscience.”

“The notion that healthy Oregonians, operating businesses with healthy employees, should simply cease operations to limit the transmission of a disease akin to COVID-19 is shocking and unprecedented in American history,” they say.

In his opinion Tuesday, Judge Michael McShane seemed to disagree, recognizing that states have broad legal authority to enact quarantine law and take other actions to protect public health. He denied the plaintiff’s request for an injunction on the grounds that they were “unlikely to succeed on the merits” of their federal claims.

Click to access Mcshaneopenouroregonruling.pdf

McShane also noted the ruling that had come out of Oregon circuit court in Baker County the previous day, in which Circuit Judge Matt Shirtcliff had ruled that the governor’s orders were invalid as a matter of law, due to the time limitation contained in one of Oregon’s emergency statutes.

The judge there declared all of Brown’s coronavirus orders “null and void,” but an emergency stay by the Oregon Supreme Court Monday night has kept them in place for the time being, while the high court considers written arguments in the case.

Those issues are “appropriately before” the state courts, McShane said, and he felt there was no reason to address them in federal court at this time.

“Given that the Oregon Supreme Court will soon rule on the novel issue of state law, this Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over the state law claims,” McShane wrote in his opinion.

Buchal and Smith have not yet responded to a request for comment from the Canby Now Podcast.

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