Sunday, May 24, 2020

Ohio Judge Deems the State's COVID-19 Lockdown 'Arbitrary, Unreasonable, and Oppressive'

The ruling says the state's top health official exceeded her statutory authority by ordering "nonessential" businesses to close.
 
By Jacob Sullum
 
Ohio's COVID-19 lockdown is illegal, a state judge ruled today, because it exceeds the powers granted by the statute under which it was imposed. Responding to a May 8 lawsuit filed by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law on behalf of 35 gyms, Lake County Court of Common Pleas Judge Eugene Lucci enjoined Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton from penalizing the plaintiffs or similar buinesses for violating the lockdown, provided "they operate in compliance with all applicable safety regulations."

In issuing her business closure and stay-at-home orders, Acton relied on a statute that gives her department "ultimate authority in matters of quarantine and isolation."

 Lucci concluded that Ohio's lockdown does not meet the legal requirements for "isolation,".......A quarantine is supposed to last only as long as "the usual incubation period of the disease"—two to 14 days, in the case of COVID-19............ "The director has quarantined the entire people of the state of Ohio, for much more than 14 days. The director has no statutory authority to close all businesses..............Lucci's injunction adds to the smattering of court decisions recognizing that state officials must comply with the law even when they are responding to a public health emergency............The public would be left with feelings that their government is not accountable to them."

"Constitutions are written to prevent governments from arbitrarily interfering in citizens' lives and businesses," 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson said in response to the ruling. "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. We remain available to serve those who are caught in the state's tangled web of unlawful orders.".........

Case Western Reserve law professor Jonathan Adler suggests in a Volokh Conspiracy post that another, more general provision of the law, allowing "special or standing orders or rules…for preventing the spread of contagious or infectious diseases," could be read to authorize the lockdown. Replying by email, Thompson says that interpretation would improperly delegate legislative powers to the executive branch. "That section is vague, broad, and unconfined," he writes. "It fails to place guardrails on administrative authority, especially when [the law] authorizes imposition of criminal penalties for any disobedience of 'any order' made pursuant thereto, without more..........To Read More...


 

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