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Federal judge rejects 2 requests to halt Inslee’s emergency virus orders

UPDATED: Fri., July 24, 2020

A judge rejected two suits, including one filed by initiative promoter and gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman, shown April 19, that claimed the state's pandemic-related restrictions are unlawful.  (Elaine Thompson)
A judge rejected two suits, including one filed by initiative promoter and gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman, shown April 19, that claimed the state's pandemic-related restrictions are unlawful. (Elaine Thompson)

A federal judge in Tacoma rejected Friday two separate requests to block the state’s emergency orders designed to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

Republican opponents of Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency orders claimed in two separate lawsuits filed in May that the restrictions violate their constitutional rights. They asked U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle for a preliminary injunction suspending them.

Settle refused on Friday, saying that, under the U.S. Constitution, federal courts have limited powers to interfere in state government activities. While Inslee may be the person with the power to issue and rescind the emergency orders, other officials enforce them, he said.

Federal case law, backed by a recent decision by a federal appeals court in Texas in a similar case, agrees with that view of the law that keeps him from issuing an injunction against Inslee, Settle said.

Settle said the opponents of the law failed to meet the first step necessary for the preliminary injunction: the likelihood their case would succeed. He gave them until next Friday to appeal.

One of the lawsuits, filed May 5, included Republican Reps. Drew MacEwen, Union; Brandon Vick, Vancouver; Andrew Barkis, Olympia; and Chris Corry, Yakima. The other, filed May 18, included GOP gubernatorial candidate and longtime initiative promoter Tim Eyman and Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier, a former candidate for Congress.

Settle’s rulings bring to four the decisions handed down in the last 10 days supporting Inslee’s authority to issue emergency orders.

On Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court explained its denial of a request to release more inmates from state prisons to protect them from COVID-19. On July 14, a federal judge in Spokane refused to grant an injunction against business restrictions requested by a Chelan County water park.

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