Political News

New Jersey Republicans sue governor over business closures

Posted May 21, 2020 10:48 p.m. EDT

— The New Jersey Republican State Committee on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, alleging his executive orders closing some businesses and not others were unconstitutional, according to court documents.

The lawsuit argues that Murphy "exceeded his authority by enacting a series of unconstitutional executive orders that have shuttered large swaths of the state's economy," and have "unlawfully discriminate[d] between similarly situated businesses by arbitrarily designating some of them as 'essential' and others as 'non-essential.' "

The litigation comes as New Jersey navigates a phased reopening of its economy and underscores the friction felt in states across the country while governors wrestle with different timelines for relaxing social distancing measures put in place for the coronavirus pandemic. Like those of many Democratic state leaders, Murphy's shutdown orders have fielded substantial criticism from Republicans eager to jump-start the economy.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan are named as co-defendants for their roles in the state's enforcement of Murphy's executive orders.

CNN has reached out to the New Jersey State Police for comment. Alyana Alfaro, Murphy's press secretary, and Sharon Lauchaire, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, told CNN they cannot comment on pending litigation.

The Republican state committee's lawsuit is joined by owners of a barbershop, a golf course, an equestrian training facility and a brewery.

Their lawsuit argues that Murphy's executive orders deprive businesses of equal protection of the law, unreasonably interfere with their liberty and property rights, and discriminate against them and many other businesses across the state. They are seeking a permanent injunction "against further infringements on their rights," a declaration that the challenged executive orders violate New Jersey's Constitution and "any and all other relief the court deems just," the lawsuit reads.

Similar lawsuits challenging the authority of governors during the pandemic have yielded split decisions.

Earlier Thursday, a Michigan judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Republican leaders of the state's Legislature challenging Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's use of emergency powers to extend Michigan's state of emergency.

That ruling, however, stands in stark contrast to a ruling by Wisconsin's Supreme Court last week that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' stay-at-home order was "unlawful" and "unenforceable," leading that state to be fully reopened.

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