A Ramsey County judge on Tuesday dismissed a legal challenge to Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders during the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit, brought by a group of businesses and 13 Republican legislators, contended the Democratic governor is abusing his power and interfering with the legislative process. Dubbed the Free Minnesota Small Business Coalition, the group asked a judge to block Walz from issuing or enforcing emergency executive orders that he has used to limit businesses’ operations, close schools and require masks in indoor public places.
District Court Judge Thomas Gilligan upheld the constitutionality of the governor’s actions. “The Governor has acted pursuant to the authority delegated to him by the Legislature,” he wrote. “The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an act of nature that provides the Governor with the basis to declare a peacetime state of emergency in Minnesota.”
The lawsuit is one of several that have been filed in state and federal courts challenging the governor’s powers related to the pandemic.
The business coalition argued Walz is usurping the powers of the Legislature. The group also contended that the coronavirus is not an “act of nature” meriting a peacetime emergency.
Gilligan ruled that communicable diseases such as COVID-19 are specifically contemplated as a potential basis for an emergency declaration under the Minnesota Emergency Management Act.
The attorney for the businesses and GOP lawmakers, Erick Kaardal, also is representing churches that have sued Walz over mask and social distancing requirements as well as voters who challenged mask requirements at polling places. Kaardal did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
A former Minnesota Republican Party official, he has previously said Walz is reducing Minnesotans to “wards of the state.”
The Walz administration and DFL legislators, meanwhile, have maintained that an emergency declaration is critical to dealing with the public health crisis. Nearly every state in the country, along with the federal government, has issued some form of emergency declaration.