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Lawsuit challenging Lamont executive order rejected by federal judge

A federal lawsuit seeking to overturn Gov. Ned Lamont’s emergency pandemic order closing bars and restaurants has been rejected by U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea.

The lawsuit, brought by Michael Amato and Joy Monsanto, owners of the 50's Lounge in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood, argued that state and city closure orders in response to the COVID-19 crisis were unconstitutional and would force them out of business.

Amato and Monsanto said in their lawsuit that, as a result of Lamont’s order, “our business will incur financial hardship to the point where we may need to furlough our employees without pay, terminate their employment for the foreseeable future, and ultimately close our doors for good.”

In his ruling, Shea rejected the claims made in the lawsuit, citing prior rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and another federal court upholding the state’s right to use extraordinary powers to protect the public health and safety in emergencies like a pandemic.

“We are pleased that Judge Shea recognized the importance of the Governor’s authority to protect the public during a global pandemic,” Attorney General William Tong said Thursday.

Norm Pattis, the lawyer for Amato and Monsanto, derided the judge’s reliance on what Pattis said were outdated precedents.

“The ruling relies heavily on the sole U.S. Supreme Court case to come close to the issue, decided before World War I,” Pattis said in an email Thursday. “By that anachronistic standard prohibition is legal, women can’t vote and discrimination is accepted social custom. Judge Shea’s decision is the equivalent of driving a horse and buggy down the interstate and should offend any sane person trying to navigate the highways today.”

A spokesman for Lamont declined to comment on the decision.

The 50's Lounge case isn’t the only lawsuit challenging Lamont’s executive order restrictions during the pandemic.

Bruce Miller, a Westport resident, also has filed suit in U.S. District Court in New Haven claiming the governor’s order restricting public gatherings to a maximum of five people violates Miller’s constitutional rights. Miller is claiming that Lamont exceeded federal guidelines and exaggerated the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The attorney general also rejected Miller’s claims.

“Our state constitution and state laws grant the Governor broad authority to protect Connecticut residents and families in a public health emergency, and his executive orders have been very clearly constitutional and fully legally justified,” Tong said in an emailed response to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Gregory B. Hladky is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (www.ctmirror.org). Copyright 2020 © The Connecticut Mirror.

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