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California Gov. Gavin Newsom warned of “enforcement and sanctions” against those challenging coronavirus orders even as he and other lawmakers are facing dozens of lawsuits by fed-up Americans.
Legal challenges are being pursued in Democrat-led states across the country as stay-at-home orders continue to be enforced with the aim of reducing the spread of the coronavirus. Businesses have reopened in defiance of lockdown orders, residents are demanding the lifting of restrictions and state lawmakers are being challenged in courts over mandates that many allege are an overreach by local governments.
“We’re being challenged,” Newsom told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
“All across this country, every single day, governors are being challenged, local health officials are being challenged, and it’s a spirit of collaboration. Those that continue to pursue things that put people in harm’s risk, you have to have stepped up efforts and enforcement and sanctions,” the Democrat said.
Newsom’s state has been hit with more than a dozen lawsuits from angry residents claiming their constitutional rights are being violated. California has restricted everything from businesses and beach access to religious services. In a headline-making move last week, Tesla founder Elon Musk reopened his plant in Alameda County, though Newsom claimed it was after “modifications” and negotiations with the local government.
“They came together and they were able to work out a framework of modifications to keep their workers safe,” he said.
The lawsuits brought in California include those challenging the closure of gun shops and churches as “non-essential” as well as one that alleged the statewide shelter-in-place order violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and constitutes forced detention without due process. Others challenge the state’s assistance to illegal immigrants and the “overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections.”
But California is not alone as other states resisting efforts to reopen have been sued by businesses, ordinary citizens and even state legislators and legislatures.
Republicans in Michigan brought a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration after she extended the state’s emergency declaration and its stay-at-home order, accusing Whitmer of overstepping her authority because she did not get the approval of the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Michigan sheriffs vowed to not “strictly” enforce Whitmer’s orders, citizens launched a protest outside the Democrats’ home and a million residents ventured out right after the lockdown was extended. Whitmer ironically accused the GOP lawmakers of filing the lawsuit as a “power grab.”
Wisconsin’s shelter-in-place order was challenged in a lawsuit and overturned by the state Supreme Court which declared that Democrat Gov. Tony Evers had overstepped his authority, calling the order “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable.”
Kentucky Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear’s ban on in-person church services was challenged and temporarily blocked by a federal judge and another lawsuit was filed alleging that the ban on mass protests was a violation of the First Amendment.
A lawsuit in Virginia challenging a ban on religious gatherings has the support of the Department of Justice, as Attorney General William Barr has vowed to intervene if civil liberties are being violated.
While many of the lawsuits have been brought by citizens and business owners, in Texas it was state Attorney General Ken Paxton who threatened last week to sue the cities of Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas if they refused to ease their local stay-at-home orders as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott moved ahead with reopening the state.
While the wave of litigation has been largely targeting Democrat lawmakers, as they have been the least willing to follow President Trump’s urging to strategically reopen their economies, Republican leaders have not escaped scrutiny.
Republican Governors Larry Hogan of Maryland and Mike DeWine of Ohio are also facing legal challenges. Maryland delegates along with religious and business leaders sued Hogan earlier this month to block his order, just days before he announced the end of the lockdown across the state where last month, a restaurant was swarmed by 15 officers from 4 different agencies for serving takeout orders.
A group of gym owners in Ohio filed a lawsuit last week against DeWine whose initial reopening orders did not include their facilities. The orders were changed a day after the lawsuit was filed, however, announcing that the gyms can reopen on May 26.
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