Federal Judge Dismisses Case Challenging Maryland’s Pandemic-Related Restrictions

    A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a state delegate, businesses and religious groups challenging the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) as the COVID-19 pandemic raged this spring.

    U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake had already denied a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs earlier this year.

    The group Reopen Maryland, in company with Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick) and a series of pastors, veterans, politicians, campgrounds and other entities, filed the lawsuit against Hogan in May alleging that executive orders limiting business activity and large gatherings infringed upon their constitutional rights.

    The state of Maryland contested that the orders were necessary to protect public health.

    Blake dismissed the case Wednesday without holding oral arguments.

    “It is not the role of the judiciary to second-guess policy choices favoring one reasonable method of preventing the spread of a disease over another, which is precisely what the plaintiffs request this court to do. Reasonable people, including informed government and public health officials, may debate whether the Governor’s orders at any moment go too far, or not far enough, in protecting the public from this deadly pandemic,” the judge wrote.

    “But, based on the allegations in the plaintiffs’ amended complaint, the court cannot conclude that Governor Hogan’s measures are arbitrary or unreasonable, or that they plainly violate any of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights,” Blake continued.

    She concluded that the courts must be careful not to usurp the power of another branch of government “in deciding how best to protect public health.”

    Since the lawsuit was filed, the Hogan administration has taken steps that allowed businesses throughout the state to reopen, though some counties with higher COVID-19 case rates maintained tighter restrictions.

    In recent days, Hogan has tightened restrictions and public health guidance as cases are once again surging. Maryland has reported more than 2,000 new COVID-19 diagnoses on three days in the past week, and the number of Marylanders hospitalized has been steadily increasing.

    As of Wednesday morning, at least 4,201 Marylanders had died from the virus since March. The nationwide death toll passed 250,000 on Wednesday.

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    Danielle E. Gaines
    Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.