Two Douglas County businesses joined with a group of other Oregon businesses to file a complaint this week in federal court against Gov. Kate Brown, claiming she violated their constitutional rights by deciding which businesses could remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lotus House, a lingerie shop in Roseburg, and Why Not Bar and Grill, in Yoncalla, joined seven other businesses in the complaint. It was filed by Portland attorney James Buchal, who is also the chairman of the Multnomah County Republican Party. Canby attorney Tyler Smith is also listed as an attorney for three of the plaintiffs, including Lotus House owner Michele Karpontinis.
Other Oregon businesses that are a party in the complaint include a Portland salon, a Salem furniture shop, a Hood River tattoo parlor, a gym in Beaverton, a bar in Ontario, and a liquor store that has locations in Hood River and The Dalles.
The complaint also lists Lillian Shirley, public health director of the state of Oregon, as a defendant.
Why Not Bar and Grill is located at 164 Main St., according to paperwork filed with the state of Oregon. The Lotus House is located at 851 SE Washington Ave., in Roseburg.
In March, Brown issued an order mandating the closure of non-essential businesses, unless they could abide by social distancing rules. That was partially lifted on Friday in most counties, including Douglas County.
In the lawsuit, Buchal states that Oregon businesses should have been given an opportunity to appeal their identification as a “non-essential” business by the state.
“Instead of a government of laws, we have a totem pole of rights depending on your identity group, and the rights of ordinary Americans who just want to make a living are at the bottom of that totem pole,” Buchal said in a press release.
The complaint accuses Brown of intentionally limiting businesses owned by Republicans in the state and claims she made decisions, without consulting medical experts, that were “irrational, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.”
The complaint also alleges that the timing of Brown’s decisions was politically motivated.
“Upon information and belief, defendants’ decision to extend the restrictions until July 6, 2020, was not made in in a neutral, good faith, and objective manner, but contaminated by collateral motives to benefit the electoral prospects of the Governor’s political party in the upcoming presidential election, and to advance that party’s ideology of larger government programs, spending and control over Americans,” the complaint said.
It also argues that the state’s death toll from COVID-19 — which as of Friday stood at 137 — is too low to warrant the closures. Futhermore, the complaint states, the economic impact from the measures taken by Brown could result in the same number of deaths as the virus, “if not higher.
“The conduct here will drive untold numbers of individual citizens to take their own lives in despair as the enterprises or careers they have spent their lives building are arbitrarily destroyed,” the complaint states. “It should shock the Court to find that through the rubric of reducing the risk of infection...the Governor has in substance sentenced many Oregonians to death and misery.”
This is the second lawsuit filed this month in which a group is challenging the governor’s executive orders.
On May 6, a group of more than two dozen churches, congregants and pastors filed a similar complaint against Brown, requesting that she allow them to reopen. Three state lawmakers later signed on as plaintiffs in that complaint.