Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Governor Hogan’s COVID-19 Restrictions

A federal judge in Baltimore today rejected a lawsuit brought by several Maryland residents, business owners, and religious leaders challenging the constitutionality of a series of executive orders issued by Governor Larry Hogan aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The plaintiffs asserted a number of claims under federal law for violations of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, the First Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom of assembly, the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause, the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, Article IV’s guarantee of a republican form of government, the Commerce Clause, and the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. In addition, the plaintiffs argued that the orders violated several rights protected by the Maryland Constitution.

According to U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake:

Reasonable people, including informed government and public health officials, may debate whether the Governor’s orders at any moment go too far, or not far enough, in protecting the public from this deadly pandemic. But, based on the allegations in the plaintiffs’ amended complaint, the court cannot conclude that Governor Hogan’s measures are arbitrary or unreasonable, or that they plainly violate any of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

The court therefore must be cautious not to “usurp the functions of another branch of government” in deciding how best to protect public health. Jacobson, 197 U.S. at 28. Accordingly, the defendants’ motion to dismiss will be granted.

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