A group of business owners who sued Gov. Janet Mills over her quarantine requirements is appealing U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker’s dismissal of the case to the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
Walker dismissed the case on Aug. 7 on a motion made by the state.
Rick Savage, the co-owner of Sunday River Brewing Co. of Bethel and other Maine business owners sued Mills in a lawsuit filed May 8 in U.S. District Court in Bangor. It sought an injunction ordering the governor to allow businesses to reopen immediately and to lift the 14-day quarantine requirement for people coming to Maine from out of state.
Savage made national news when he read the governor’s cellphone number on air during a Fox News appearance. He also opened his restaurant in early May despite the closure order. His operating licenses were rescinded for a short time.
Walker, a Trump appointee, said in his ruling that Savage and other plaintiffs failed to show how Mills’ quarantine order had disproportionately targeted or damaged them. The judge also said that as state leaders, Mills and state health officials have a constitutional right to act on behalf of public health and safety in emergencies such as a pandemic.
The judge chastised the business owners for looking out for their own interests during a public health crisis.
“This collective crisis ought to have imposed a sense of collective humility given the long shadow cast by all that we do not know about the disease,” he said.
Walker also said that because the restrictions in place when the lawsuit was filed have been relaxed, the arguments weren’t as relevant as they had been in May.
In a similar case filed by campground and business owners in southern Maine, Walker denied a motion for a preliminary injunction that would have lifted Mills’ quarantine requirement. An appeal of that decision is also pending before the appellate court in Boston.
Attorney Steve Smith of Augusta, who represents Savage and business owners in that lawsuit, did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment on the decision to appeal the case.
When Walker issued the decision, Smith criticized Mills and state lawmakers.
“The governor’s arbitrary rules have imposed great harm on our clients and this state that will be felt for years to come,” Smith said. “The Legislature is equally to blame for abdicating its oversight role of the executive branch and allowing the governor to issue laws at her whim.”