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Lawsuits & Litigation

Hawaii Residents Sue Governor Over Excessive COVID-19 Executive Orders

— June 16, 2020

Fed up residents are suing Hawaii Governor David Ige over claims his excessive executive order are unconstitutional, have gone on too long, and violate civil rights.

Many states decided to shut down to help slow the spread of COVID-19 back in March. While most of those states have begun to gradually reopen and lift restrictions, other states are taking the slow and steady approach, and that’s frustrating some residents. For example, some residents have sued Governor David Ige of Hawaii and are “rushing to amend the federal lawsuit they filed after Ige extended the out-of-state quarantine another month.”

COVID-19 graphic
COVID-19 graphic; image courtesy of Matryx via Pixabay,

The lawsuit was filed by about a dozen state residents and argues Ige’s “continuous COVID-related emergency proclamations — now numbering 10 of them — are unconstitutional, have gone on too long, and violate civil rights.” The plaintiffs have also started a nonprofit association known as ‘For Our Rights,’ which pledges to draw attention to and fight against the excessive orders. They also allege “harms ranging from loss of income and business destruction to anxiety, depression, and even physical pain.” Marc Victor, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said:

“We think we’re dealing with irreparable harm, things that you can’t fix. Every day that goes by people are losing money, businesses are going out, unemployment is going up. We need action right now.”

The state attorney general’s office pushed back and said:

“The Governor’s Emergency Proclamation for COVID-19 and the subsequent supplementary proclamations were properly and lawfully issued pursuant to the Governor’s statutory authority and his determination that an emergency exists due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the danger and threat it poses to Hawaii. Plaintiffs’ allegations—including alleged constitutional violations stemming from the Governor’s actions—are without merit.”

It remains to be seen whether a judge will rule against the emergency orders or side with the plaintiffs. U.S. Attorney Kenji with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Honolulu admitted it “may file a statement of interest in litigation brought by another party.” He previously said:

“The Department of Justice respects and recognizes the significant legal authority our state and local officials have to protect our communities during an emergency. The rapid spread of COVID-19 presents such an emergency and may justify certain restrictions imposed by state and local officials. However, restrictions must last only as long as they are absolutely necessary, and state and local officials should tailor them as the situation progresses. Importantly, decisions regarding what businesses are “non-essential” should not be arbitrary. The Department of Justice will monitor restrictions imposed by officials here in Hawaii and elsewhere and may take action when they raise concerns under the U.S. Constitution or federal law. However, it is important to note that our ability to intervene is not limitless, and in many cases, we do not have authority to intervene on our own, but must file a statement of interest in litigation brought by another party. Our assessment of whether and when to intervene in any given case will depend upon the facts and, of course, what we believe best serves the interests of justice.”


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