US judge rejects challenge to Inslee’s emergency powers

Slidewaters in Chelan said the state’s restrictions were likely to prevent it from opening this summer.

Associated Press

SPOKANE — A U.S. judge in Spokane has firmly rejected a water park’s challenge to Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency powers as the state responds to the coronavirus pandemic.

Slidewaters LLC, a water park in Chelan, sued the governor and the Department of Labor Industries last month, saying that Inslee abused his power in declaring the emergency and that the state’s restrictions were likely to prevent it from opening for the summer.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice previously rejected the park’s request for a restraining order that would have allowed it to open. Slidewaters nevertheless opened eight days later, on June 20, and it remains open, despite the threat of $10,000 or more in fines from the state.

On Tuesday the judge dismissed the case with prejudice, saying it is well settled that states have the authority to enact quarantine and other public health laws pursuant to their police powers.

Rice also rejected the park’s claim that it could operate safely in a reduced manner under social-distancing measures.

“It is not the Court’s role to second-guess the reasoned public health decisions of other branches of government,” he wrote.

Rice returned the case to Chelan County Superior Court for consideration of the state’s counterclaims against Slidewaters. The state is seeking a ruling that the park has violated the governor’s proclamation, an order enjoining them from operating, and legal expenses.

Sydney Phillips, an attorney with the conservative Freedom Foundation who represented the park, said Wednesday that Slidewaters will appeal the dismissal.

“Obviously, Slidewaters is disappointed in the ruling and the way Judge Rice summarily dismissed the claims,” Phillips said.

The lawsuit is one of several that have challenged the restrictions the state has imposed in response to the pandemic, and the first to have a final order issued.

Initiative promoter and Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tim Eyman, Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier, and others are seeking an injunction in federal court in Seattle blocking the Democratic governor from enforcing his emergency proclamation. They argue that the restrictions deprived them of their liberty and property rights and discriminate between “essential” and “nonessential” businesses.

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