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SoCal Recorder | COVID-19 Lawsuits Test the Extent of Gov. Newsom’s Power

By Juliette Fairley

Gov. Newsom’s stay-at-home orders were designed to curb the spread of COVID-19 but have also resulted in a proliferation of lawsuits. Although unsuccessful in their bids for a temporary restraining order (TRO) or preliminary injunction, litigation continues just in case there’s a surge in coronavirus cases that cause another shutdown of the economy. Below is an update on the complaints that have so far survived Gov. Newsom’s phased reopening of the state.

Kevin Muldoon v Gov. Newsom

U.S. District Judge James V. Selna denied City of Newport Beach mayor emeritus Kevin Muldoon’s TRO request against Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials. Muldoon alleged COVID-19-related closure of Orange County beaches infringed upon his federal and state constitutional rights, as previously reported. Litigation continues even after Newsom agreed to allow the beaches to reopen in the event a surge in coronavirus cases warrant the reclosure of beaches.

“Initially, cases like this are pretty moot right now because of changes in the orders, but, depending on what happens It could come back to life,” said Brian Kabateck, an attorney with KBK Lawyers in Los Angeles. “It’s certainly possible that this could become a live issue if, for example, the governor closed the beaches again. Because of that, the case is moving forward and will be out there about whether or not the governor can make these determinations.”

Givens and Bish v Gov. Newsom 

Christine Bish and Ron Givens sued Gov. Newsom over their right to protest under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. They alleged that the California Highway Patrol under the direction of Gov. Newsom refused to allow any gatherings on the grounds of the state capitol for the purpose of protesting or petitioning the government, according to media reports.

“I make a lot of this case because between the time that the case was started and filed and today, we’ve seen enormous protests and demonstrations throughout the United States, including California, which have largely not been stopped because of COVID-19,” Kabateck told the Southern California Record.

An application for reconsideration of the court’s May 8, 2020 order denying plaintiffs’ application for a temporary restraining order is currently pending before the court along with a motion for injunction pending appeal. A hearing is set for August 11, 2020.

“It seems arbitrary and capricious to allow Black Lives Matter protests to happen and not allow protests that are potentially on the other side of the political spectrum to continue,” Kabateck said in an interview.

Darrel Issa v. Gov. Newsom

After Gov. Newsom issued an executive order calling for every voter in the state to receive a vote-by-mail ballot for the November 2020 election, Darrell Issa, a candidate for U.S. Representative of the 50th District, and four other plaintiffs reportedly sued on May 21, 2020, alleging that it was an unlawful attempt to supersede and replace California election law, including the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA).

Since the complaint was filed, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction on June 11 and the government’s response is due on June 25.

“No one has ruled out voting in person quite yet so this case may not be ripe,” said Kabateck.

Instead, the future of the case hinges on future governmental decisions.

“If the governor or secretary of state came out and ordered no in-person voting then I think it’s a very serious problem that would result in an injunction being issued,” Kabateck said. “Right now that hasn’t occurred.”

Professional Beauty Federation of California v Gov. Newsom

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner denied the Professional Beauty Federal of California’s TRO request against Gov. Gavin Newsom on June 8, 2020.  The beauty federation alleged the COVID-19-related closure of personal care services, deemed non-essential, violated multiple amendments under the U.S. Constitution, as previously reported.

The case presses forward even after the state released guidelines on May 24 allowing limited services to resume at barbershops and hair salons.

“Right now all the decisions that I’ve read from various judges out there seem to critically point to the same thing which is, based upon the facts and circumstances as known to the governor at the time, he was within his authority to issue the shutdown orders but that could change,” said Kabateck.

SoCal Record | COVID-19 Lawsuits Test Gov. Newsom’s Power