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California Stay-Home Order Upheld Over Constitutional Challenge

May 11, 2020, 7:31 PM

A gun store employee and a candidate for the U.S House of Representatives are unlikely to succeed in their claims that California’s stay-home order violates their constitutional rights, a federal judge ruled.

Denial of the permit applications are within the scope of the state’s emergency powers to fight the spread of Covid-19, the Eastern District of California said Friday.

California’s statewide order to slow the spread of Covid-19 went into effect in mid-March, and imposes a moratorium on large group activities, including rallies and protests at the state capitol, where Ron Givens and Christine Bish each hoped to hold gatherings.

Givens works at a gun store in northern California which experienced a surge in firearm sales as infections increased, the suit said. He filed an application to hold a protest against the increasingly long delays in background checks required for firearm purchasers in the state.

Bish applied for a permit to hold a rally supporting her congressional campaign. Both were denied.

They sued Governor Gavin Newsom (D) and other state officials, alleging the stay-at-home order infringed upon constitutional rights to speak, assemble, and petition.

But their claims aren’t likely to succeed, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled Friday.

California’s stay-at-home order and the resulting moratorium on permits are content-neutral time, place, and manner regulations designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Judge John A. Mendez wrote for the court.

The order doesn’t prohibit substantially more speech than necessary to protect public health, and doesn’t prohibit substantially more expressive association than necessary, he said.

The court also decided the protests—which expected 1000 and 500 attendees respectively and proposed music, food trucks, and handout distribution—were unlikely to comply with social distancing requirements.

Dhillon Law Group Inc. and D. Gill Sperlein of San Francisco represent Givens and Bish. The California Attorney General’s office represents Newsom.

The case is Givens v. Newsom, 2020 BL 174086, E.D. Cal., No. 2:20-cv-00852, 5/8/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maeve Allsup in San Francisco at mallsup@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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