In March 2020, in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, Governor Sisolak issued a series of directives ordering the shutdown of all “non- essential” businesses in Nevada. On May 7, 2020, a group of business owners filed a class-action lawsuit against Governor Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford, and other Nevada government officials in response to these statewide shutdowns which they claim have deprived them of numerous rights and liberties under both the U.S. and Nevada Constitutions. This lawsuit was filed on behalf of all businesses similarly economically impacted by the shutdown orders.
Some of the businesses involved in the lawsuit include hair salon and barbershop owners, an events company, and a physician wishing to treat their patients with drugs prohibited by the Governor. The plaintiffs are seeking damages, an injunction to enjoin the enforcement of the defendants’ orders, emergency directives, and business closures, and declaratory relief, in the form of a court declaration that the defendants’ orders and emergency directives violated the plaintiff’s civil rights.
The 51-page complaint alleges that the governor abused his administrative power and violated US and state constitutional rights with his emergency declarations and subsequent shutdown orders of “non- essential” businesses. Additionally, plaintiffs argue that Nevada’s unemployment programs were “grossly neglected” by the governor which has further financially crippled business owners and workers.
The plaintiffs claim that their fifth amendment rights were infringed as plaintiffs were forced to abstain from conducting business operations, even those in compliance with the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, which violates plaintiffs’ Constitutional right to travel. Additionally, plaintiffs claim that the defendants violated the takings clause of the fifth amendment through the shutdown order, as it unconstitutionally deprived Plaintiffs of all economically beneficial use of their businesses without just compensation. Plaintiffs further allege that their fourteenth amendment rights were violated as the plaintiffs were deprived of their due process rights by the order to close all “non-essential businesses” without affording plaintiffs a constitutional adequate hearing to present their case. Additionally, they bring a fourteenth amendment equal protection claim against the classification of businesses as either “essential” or “non-essential” which plaintiffs claim are arbitrary distinctions.
Lawsuits of this nature are occurring across the country as governors in Arizona, Wisconsin, Washington, Maryland, and Illinois, have also been targeted with lawsuits that have challenged business closures and travel restrictions. As the impacts of COVID-19 continue, it is unclear how these lawsuits will be handled. As of this writing, officials with the governor’s office and attorney general’s office have declined to comment on the pending litigation.