HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that many of Gov. Ned Lamont’s shutdown orders related to the coronavirus pandemic are constitutional, thwarting a challenge from a pub owner.
Justices upheld a lower court judge’s decision in September that rejected claims the Democratic governor was exceeding his legal authority in ordering the closing of bars and restricting certain other business activities in efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis had also denied a request to block the orders, which also was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Kristine Casey, who runs Casey’s Irish Pub in Milford, sued Lamont in June, saying he exceeded his authority under the public health and civil preparedness emergencies he declared in March and that remain in effect until Feb. 9.
The Supreme Court disagreed with Casey on Thursday.
“Although the plaintiffs raise important questions regarding the governor’s authority in a pandemic, our analysis of the pertinent law and relevant facts leads us to conclude that the governor’s challenged actions to date have been constitutional,” the court said.
“We acknowledge the incredibly difficult economic situation that the plaintiffs and thousands of others across the state are in given the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said. “We also acknowledge, however, that the governor is charged with protecting the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of this state, and that COVID-19 presents an unforeseen and unpredictable pandemic that is not a static or isolated crisis.”
Casey had no immediate comment on the ruling Thursday. She said in her lawsuit that her pub has been closed since March to comply with Lamont’s order on bars, but she still has to pay $3,200 a month in rent and is racking up $14,000 a month in other expenses.
“Casey is hemorrhaging personal savings and borrowing from her father to try to stay afloat,” the lawsuit said. “She has not been able to secure any loans through the Small Business Administration. She is fast running out of funds and the shutdown forced upon her by the Governor’s executive orders will put her out of business if it continues much longer.”
Casey’s attorney, Jonathan Klein, said he was disappointed with the Supreme Court’s ruling. He said it was too early to say whether an appeal to federal courts was possible, because the Supreme Court only issued an initial ruling Thursday that does not give many details on its reasoning.
The Supreme Court did not say when it will issue the full, official decision.
State Attorney General William Tong, whose office defended Lamont’s orders before the Supreme Court, said in a statement that the new ruling “saves lives.”
“Governor Lamont’s orders since the onset of the pandemic in March have been lawful and justified,” said Tong, also a Democrat. “These measures have not been without sacrifice, but nothing is more important right now than stemming the spread of COVID-19 and keeping our state safe.”
In other virus-related news in Connecticut:
Unemployed Connecticut residents will begin receiving an additional $300 a week benefit for all filers, regardless of which unemployment program they use, beginning Sunday, according to the state Department of Labor. The federal supplement was included in the new pandemic relief legislation signed by the president.
Most of the state’s 181,000 filers should not see an interruption in their weekly benefits, according to state officials. The additional $300 weekly payments will continue for 11 weeks, ending March 13.
Associated Press writer Susan Haigh contributed to this report.
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