Business owners, clergy and three Republican state delegates are appealing a federal judge’s rejection Wednesday of their constitutional challenge to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s state-at-home orders.
The challengers Friday notified the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to soon expect their objection to U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake’s ruling that Hogan’s emergency directives were narrowly tailored to achieve Maryland’s compelling interest in protecting the public from the deadly COVID-19 virus.
They claim Hogan’s orders violate their constitutional rights to assemble in groups of more than 10 and hold religious services as they deem appropriate. Operators of the private Antietam Battlefield KOA Campground and Adventure Park USA, who are also plaintiffs, contend the governor’s order deprives them of equal protection, as businesses deemed “essential” by the governor are allowed to remain open.
“We feel very strongly that you have a right to assemble in groups of more than 10,” Del. Warren E. Miller, R-Howard and Carroll, said Friday in explaining the impetus for the appeal he will lodge with his fellow challengers.
Miller called it “patently unfair that some businesses are deemed essential,” such as Walmart, while other businesses that sell similar wares, such as clothing stores, are prohibited from opening. “That’s not fair or proper under the rule of law as I understand it,” he said.
In rejecting the challenge, Blake stated that “the world is now in the grip of a public health crisis more severe than any seen for a hundred years.” The judge said Hogan “has made reasonable choices informed, if not dictated by, such data, science and advice” provided by “experienced public health officials.”
Hogan’s office did not immediately return a request for comment Friday regarding the coming appeal. Hogan’s spokespeople had earlier praised Blake for having “recognized that the governor’s emergency orders have a firm basis in law and science.”
Similar challenges to stay-at-home orders have had mixed results in other states in recent weeks. Orders in Illinois, Maine and California survived federal court challenges, while U.S. District Court judges in Kentucky and North Carolina found the states’ restrictions too broad or arbitrary.
In addition to Miller, those seeking an injunction against Hogan’s orders include Dels. Daniel L. Cox, R-Frederick and Carroll, and Neil Parrott, R-Washington; the ad hoc group Reopen Maryland LLC, which has rallied in Annapolis against Hogan’s directives; and a group of pastors.
The coming appeal is docketed at the 4th Circuit as Antietam Battlefield KOA et al. v. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., No. 20-1579.