Protesters Gather at Capitol to Assail Coronavirus Closures; Washington Residents Threatened After Naming Open Businesses

Tim Eyman, a Republican candidate for governor, addresses a crowd as well over 1,000 people during a protest at the Capitol in early May.  

A federal court judge threw out another lawsuit claiming Gov. Jay Inslee's statewide stay-at-home orders are unconstitutional.

The suit was filed in May by anti-tax activist Tim Eyman, Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier and some other Tri-Citians who claimed Inslee's proclamations violated a long list of their Constitutional rights.

But Judge Benjamin Settle dismissed the U.S. District Court suit on Monday for a lack of jurisdiction.

Attorney Stephen Pidgeon said they have yet to decide if they will appeal to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

"We believe we have the argument on the merits on our side," Pidgeon told the Herald. "However, the governor, using the Attorney General's Office, will again hope to escape liabilities and to manipulate technicalities to keep the court from deciding the case."

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said through a spokesman that his office will continue to "defend the governor's ability to manage this crisis and keep Washingtonians safe."

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Inslee's order was put in place in late March to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Washington state.

The order required non-essential businesses to shut their doors to the public, banned most gatherings, limited travel and urged people to stay home.

At the time, Didier said the order prevented him from meeting with other Franklin County Republicans. Eyman and Tri-Citian Lisa Thomas made similar complaints that they were stopped from making political statements because of the orders.

"During the indefinite period of shutdown, the Proclamations prohibited all peaceable assemblies, including the right to organize candidacies to challenge the ruling political class, the right to fund raise in public settings, and the right to organize for purposes of political express, in violation of the First Amendment," according to the complaint.

Harm to business

Didier, Eyman and Thomas were joined in the suit by Shakey's Pizza Parlor owner Dean Wellsfry, Cousins' Restaurant general manager Bobbie Ransier and LaWanda Hatch.

The restaurant owners and Hatch, a wedding planner, said their businesses were damaged by the shutdown.

Two other business owners are from Okanogan County and a former Expedia.com employee.

Didier couldn't be reached about Monday's ruling, but Wellsfry took to Facebook after the announcement to call it "massive corruption" and "justice denied."

In three months a GoFundMe campaign called "All Hands on Deck, Restore our Wa St Constitution" to help pay the attorney fees raised $50,800.

In making his decision, Judge Settle in Tacoma questioned whether the federal court had any jurisdiction over Inslee's proclamations since the governor wasn't the one enforcing the rules.

Without proving Inslee was the one enforcing the rules, the judge said his authority was limited.

Pidgeon disagreed, saying the governor acted through the agencies such as the state Department of Health and Labor and Industries to enforce his rules.

The case is one of 17 legal challenges to the governor's Stay Home, Stay Healthy orders. The the Attorney General said last week that none have resulted in a court limiting Inslee's orders.

Eight of the cases are resolved, eight are pending, and one is on appeal, said in a news release.

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(c)2020 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

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