Federal judge dismisses challenge to governor's emergency declaration

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A lawsuit challenging the legality of Gov. Jay Inslee's emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic was thrown out in the federal Eastern District Court of Washington on Tuesday.

In dismissing the complaint, Judge Thomas Rice wrote that the governor's emergency power granted by the Legislature "clearly encompasses an outbreak of a pandemic disease." The judge also ruled the Department of Labor & Industries lawfully exercised its authority in developing rules that enforce the governor's emergency proclamations.

Judge Rice's order also states, in part:

"Even if Plaintiff has identified a constitutionally protect interest upon which the emergency proclamation infringes, the infringement is justified by the ongoing public health emergency caused by COVID-19...That Plaintiff and a representative of the local health district believe that Plaintiff can operate its business in a way that minimizes the spread of COVID-19 does not establish that the Governor's emergency proclamation is unreasonable, overly broad, or unequally applied...It is not the Court's role to second-guess the reasoned public health decisions of other branches of government."

Slidewaters, a water park in Chelan County that has remained open in violation of state law, filed suit against Gov. Jay Inslee and the Department of Labor & Industries on June 8. The judge previously rejected the water park's motion for a temporary restraining order against state enforcement of the emergency proclamations.

Judge Rice remanded the state's counter claims against the water park to Chelan County Superior Court, where the state is seeking a declaratory judgment that Slidewaters' conduct violates the governor's proclamation and an order enjoining them from operating. The state is also seeking to recoup costs and attorney fees.

"I would like to thank the Attorney General's Office for all of their work on this case," Inslee said. "This unequivocal ruling on the merits was made possible by their efforts."

Read the judge's full order here.

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