Virginia gym owner files suit to halt Northam’s executive order closing nonessential businesses

Virginia News

Two Republican lawmakers are representing a Virginia man seeking to permanently block the governor's order closing all nonessential businesses

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia gym owner has filed a civil suit seeking an injunction to block Governor Ralph Northam’s executive order closing nonessential businesses until May 8. Plaintiffs in the suit include the Gold’s Gym in Midlothian and Roanoke.

Merrill C. “Sandy” Hall, the owner of several Gold’s Gym facilities in Virginia, filed a suit Tuesday in Culpeper County Circuit Court challenging the governor’s authority to enforce Executive Order 53, which directed all nonessential businesses to close in response to the coronavirus.

“As presently applied and enforced, EO 53 has irreparably injured Petitioners’ [Hall] business, and is currently smothering their final breath,” the suit claims. “Indeed, if these businesses cannot re-open before May 8, 2020, the executive order will force their permanent closure and eliminate the many jobs they sustain.”

READ: Full Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief

Hall is being represented by two Republican lawmakers, Sen. William M. “Bill” Stanley (Franklin County) and Sen. Ryan T. McDougle (Hanover), in the case.

“The Executive Order failed to adhere to the Constitution and failed to follow the Code. And, the Governor failed to obtain the requisite judicial approval for the Order,” McDougle said in a statement. “The only way for my client to be protected from unlawful arrest is for the court to issue an injunction halting the criminal implications of the Executive Order against my client and his private membership health club.”

On Wednesday, Stanley and McDougle cited “certain legal grounds” laid out in the suit that they argue prove that a permanent injunction should be granted.

The legal grounds provided by Hall’s attorneys in the release include:

  • That the Governor’s Executive Order 53, and its subsequent amendments, by the specific and plain language of the orders, do not apply to private, member-only health clubs regulated under the “Virginia Health Club Act,” and that the operation of their businesses are “essential” to the health and well-being of Virginians in battling the COVID-19 virus;
  • That the Governor exceeded his statutory and legal authority when he issued Executive Order 53, invoking powers and authority that he did not actually possess; and
  • That the Governor lacked the constitutional and statutory authority to impose a criminal penalty of a Class One Misdemeanor (punishable by a maximum jail term of 12 months, and a $2500.00 fine), for any “violation” by a business owner of Executive Order 53, and therefore is prohibited from incarcerating small business owners for attempting to operate their business.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.


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