New Jersey Republicans sued Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday, challenging his insistence on keeping most executive orders in place that prohibit or restrict the activities of many businesses and individuals to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The suit, filed in state court in Cape May County — the southeasternmost tip of the state along the Atlantic Ocean — was the latest in a growing series of actions against Murphy and his continuing lockdown orders.
The Republicans filed the lawsuit on behalf of small businesses, including four named plaintiffs: a barbershop, a golf course, a brewery and a horse trainer.
Michael Testa, a Republican state senator representing Cape May County, is one of the attorneys who filed the suit.
“These people are suffering very real damages because the governor has picked winners and losers,” Testa told northjersey.com.
The complaint claims there is no “rational basis” for businesses to be closed simply based on the services they provide, that the decisions are “arbitrary” and that the named plaintiffs were denied rights to due process.
It adds that Murphy’s orders have caused “irreparable harm to innumerable small businesses."
Testa told an online press conference Thursday that the prohibitions and restrictions are “not backed by science at this point.”
He pointed that what he considered big stores, such as Walmart, had been allowed to remain open, but a barber shop in Sussex County was ordered closed.
“You can sterilize a barber chair a lot easier ... than you could a bunch of random items that someone’s touching in a store and putting back on the shelf,” New Jersey Republican State Committee Chairman Doug Steinhardt said.
It is unclear what, if any, impact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest update to its website — which now claims that the novel coronavirus is “not easily spread” on surfaces such as steel or plastic — will have on the issue.
Murphy sarcastically claimed ignorance of the suit when asked about it at his daily press briefing.
"They sued me?" he said. "As you can tell I've spent a lot of time focused on that suit.”
The lawsuit comes following a New Jersey priest’s federal lawsuit against Murphy earlier this month, protests by barbers and hair stylists and a much-publicized gym owner’s open defiance when he opened his facility despite being issued citations and health code violations.
Similar actions have been occurring across the country as frustration builds against the lockdown orders. On Thursday, a Michigan judge rejected the state attorney general’s request to order a barber to close his doors.
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