Buoyed by a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in a separate case in New York, Maryland Del. Dan Cox and his fellow plaintiffs are seeking an appeal in their lawsuit against Gov. Larry Hogan’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Cox (R-Frederick and Carroll) and the plaintiffs, including several pastors, have alleged Hogan’s COVID-19 restrictions are unconstitutional. The lawsuit argued Hogan (R) violated the individual and constitutional liberties of Marylanders.
Judge Catherine Blake of the U.S. District Court of Maryland dismissed the lawsuit Nov. 18, stating the amended complaint did not outweigh the governor’s duty to protect public health.
“The plaintiffs allege in their amended complaint and in their opposition that less restrictive measures are available to Governor Hogan and that it is unequal treatment to designate some businesses — but not theirs — as essential,” she wrote. “But alleging that an order goes too far in protecting public health is not the same as pleading that an order has no real and substantial relation to protecting public health.”
However, a new decision by the U.S. Supreme Court gives Cox hope that his appeal will be successful.
In a 5-4 vote the night before Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court justices blocked certain COVID-19 attendance restrictions on houses of worship in New York, according to The Associated Press. The restrictions at hand “strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty” and “single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment,” the Supreme Court’s majority opinion read.
While Cox said that the plaintiffs in his case planned to appeal anyway after Blake dismissed their lawsuit, he was encouraged by the outcome of the New York case, saying that Hogan and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo used similar arguments to justify imposing COVID-19 restrictions.
“The tide has turned both in exposing false narratives surrounding COVID-19 and even more importantly the misuse of the Constitution,” Cox wrote in an email Friday. “The Constitution stands regardless of emergency — indeed that is why we have a Constitution, to ensure our liberties remain at all times.”
The plaintiffs in Cox’s lawsuit have appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from the denial of relief and dismissal of the case, according to a statement from Cox’s office.
“The relief requested by the plaintiffs is to uphold their constitutional and natural liberty to represent our constituents without threat of arrest, to be able to work in and operate small business without reduction of capacity or closures while the big box stores make billions and are open and packed, and to worship God without state interference,” Cox wrote. “We will win this case, and Maryland will once again be free from an overreach and injustice like we are not supposed to see happen in our free land.”
The governor’s office was not immediately available for a comment Friday night.
Steve Bohnel contributed to this story.