Lawsuit Challenges Minnesota Shutdown Order

Scott has chronicled life under Minnesota’s oppressive, discriminatory and ineffective shutdown regime in his Coronavirus in one state series. It has been evident for some weeks that Governor Tim Walz has achieved little beyond unemploying a half million or more Minnesotans and destroying many thousands of his state’s businesses, while allowing the devastation of Minnesota’s nursing homes. As of this afternoon, the forces of common sense are striking back.

Today the Upper Midwest Law Center filed suit in the federal court for the District of Minnesota on behalf of nine individuals, churches and small businesses:

* Northland Baptist Church of St. Paul, Minnesota and Pastor John Bruski, who have been prohibited from holding in-person religious services and indoor or outdoor religious gatherings while at the same time similar types of secular gatherings have been allowed under the executive orders.

* Living Word Christian Center, which has been prohibited from holding in-person religious services and indoor or outdoor religious gatherings, while at the same time similar types of secular gatherings have been allowed under the executive orders.

* Glow In One Mini Golf L.L.C. in Blaine, Minnesota, and its owner and operator, Aaron Kessler, who have been prohibited from operating a mini-golf business while at the same time golf courses have been allowed to operate under the executive orders.

* Myron’s Cards and Gifts, Inc. and its owner and operator Larry Evenson, which has locations in Bloomington, Coon Rapids, Roseville, Blaine and Mankato, Minnesota, who have been required to shut down five greeting card and gift stores while at the same time big box stores such as Target, Walgreens and CVS have been allowed to stay open and sell greeting cards and gifts under the executive orders.

* Andrew Hulse and Gay Bunch-Hulse, owners and operators of 18 | 8 Fine Men’s Salons in Maple Grove and Wayzata, Minnesota, who have been prohibited from operating their state-licensed and infection control trained hair salons while at the same time liquor stores and pet groomers have been allowed to operate under the executive orders.

The complaint alleges that Governor Walz’s many executive orders have violated plaintiffs’ rights of religious freedom under the federal and Minnesota constitutions; their free speech and assembly rights under the federal and Minnesota constitutions; their equal protection rights under the federal constitution; their due process rights under the federal constitution; and, further, constitute a taking of their property for which compensation must be paid under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The complaint is embedded in full below. I think it poses a formidable challenge to the governor’s blatantly discriminatory and unauthorized exercise of executive power. Here are a few introductory paragraphs:

2. These [Executive Orders] have totally shut down some businesses, schools, and places of worship across Minnesota—while allowing others to remain open. The consequences of these EOs have been devastating for the Plaintiffs, other Minnesota businesses, and places of worship. More than half a million Minnesotans have been forced to apply for unemployment since Governor Walz began selectively shutting down Minnesota’s economy.

3. Worshippers across Minnesota have been prohibited from assembling to celebrate Easter and the Passover, while liquor stores have remained open. Target, Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS are open, while local Hallmark stores are closed. Golf courses and bait shops are open, but indoor amusement facilities are shut. Nobody can legally get a haircut, but dogs may now be groomed. Businesses in Minnesota have been forced to carry rent obligations, loan payments, and tax obligations without relief and without income. Those businesses’ landlords, in turn, have not been able to collect rent from tenants who cannot afford to pay it.

4. Governor Walz chose this course of action even though there was no federal directive requiring states to shut down their economies to respond to COVID-19. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Guidance that the governor cites in his Orders does not require or recommend shutting down entire economies to stop COVID-19; rather, it emphasizes the importance of keeping certain businesses open. …

5. To enforce this unconstitutional scheme, Governor Walz threatened criminal penalties for individuals and businesses who fail to comply with the EOs, despite not having the statutory authority to impose penalties against businesses or places of worship. Governor Walz even “deputized” Attorney General Keith Ellison, threatening penalties of up to $25,000 never before applied to alleged violations of Chapter 12 under Minnesota Statutes section 8.31. Governor Walz’ orders state that city and county attorneys can proceed under section 8.31 as well, even though the law does not authorize it. These threatened penalties intimidated Plaintiffs into not exercising their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights for fear of criminal prosecution. News reports indicate that dozens of people have been charged with violations of the EOs by County Attorneys responsible for prosecution of violations of the EOs.

If you would like to support the work of the Upper Midwest Law Center (I am on its board of directors), you can donate here. This is the complaint:

Responses