The Maine attorney general’s office on Tuesday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed last month by business owners because they didn’t say how they were damaged by Gov. Janet Mills’ coronavirus restrictions.
The lawsuit claims that Mills’ orders imposed during the pandemic violate the U.S and Maine Constitutions.
Deputy Attorney General Christopher Taub also argued that Rick Savage, owner of Sunday River Brewing Co. in Bethel, James Fahey, a wedding DJ, Mike Mercer, owner of a security firm and Lindsey Crosby, owner of a South Portland hair salon, don’t have standing to bring suit against the governor.
Savage opened his restaurant in defiance of the governor’s orders on May 1. He temporarily lost his licenses to operate but they were restored quickly. Sunday River Brewing has since reopened under eased restaurant restrictions.
“That a suit may be a class action, however, adds nothing to the question of standing, for even named plaintiffs who represent a class ‘must allege and show that they personally have been injured, not that injury has been suffered by other, unidentified members of the class to which they belong and which they purport to represent,’” Taub wrote.
Stephen Smith, the Augusta lawyer representing the business owners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit was filed May 2 when business owners were balking at Mills’ reluctance to reopen the state following more than two months of government-ordered shutdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since then, Mills has allowed nearly every type of business but bars to reopen as long as social distancing measures are in place and owners follow guidelines recommended by the Maine Center for Disease Control.
Taub said in the motion to dismiss the lawsuit that the U.S. Supreme Court “has made clear that when a state is facing a public health emergency and enacts measures to protect its residents, the measures are afforded great deference and the usual constitutional analysis does not apply.”
The deputy attorney general also denied that the governor’s orders violate the state Constitution.
“It is impossible to see how the orders, which allow plaintiffs to operate their businesses subject to certain restrictions, deprive them of life, property, safety, or happiness within the meaning of the Maine Constitution,” he said.