The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, working on behalf of 35 independent gyms, struck a significant win for their right to exist by persuading a court to rule against Gov. Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton’s “oppressive” shutdown of their businesses.
The Ohio Court of Common Pleas in Lake County on Wednesday handed down a decision that castigated DeWine and the health department director and granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the gym owners from being prosecuted for opening while awaiting a court trial. The ruling is available in its entirety here.
The center made the announcement on Wednesday.
The ruling by Judge Eugene Lucci of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas enjoins, or forbids, the governor and Health Department director from “imposing or enforcing penalties solely for non-compliance with the director’s order” against gymnasiums, health clubs, fitness centers, gyms, and workout facilities.”
Lucci said that private property rights are fundamental rights in Ohio, and that the Ohio Department of Health has both violated those rights and exceeded its own authority in “criminalizing lawful businesses, and imposing strict liability for violations, including severe criminal, civil, and equitable penalties”
Lucci said, “The director has no statutory authority to close all businesses, including the plaintiffs’ gyms … She has acted in an impermissibly arbitrary, unreasonable, and oppressive manner without any procedural safeguards.”
He also said some of the plaintiffs’ businesses would not survive a lockdown of two months or longer.
Maurice Thompson, 1851 Center’s executive director, said, “Constitutions are written to prevent governments from arbitrarily interfering in citizens’ lives and businesses. 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.”
The center describes itself as, “A non-profit, non-partisan law firm dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government. The 1851 Center litigates constitutional issues related to property rights, taxpayer and entrepreneur rights, regulation, parental rights, and search and seizure.”
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.