BISMARCK — A North Dakota district court judge has thrown out a lawsuit challenging Gov. Doug Burgum's use of executive authority to manage the health crisis in the early months of the pandemic.
Judge Daniel Borgen dismissed the case of a Minot, N.D., hair salon that was temporarily shuttered, along with other salons, by an executive order from Burgum, according to a decision released Tuesday, Sept. 1.
In April, Somerset Court long-term care center and Kari Riggin, owner of the facility's in-house salon, sued Burgum and then-state health official Mylynn Tufte over the governor's decision to restrict businesses around the state. Somerset Court and Riggin argued that his order was an overreach of the governor's power that denied business owners their constitutional right to earn a living.
After the pandemic swept through many parts of the United States this spring, Burgum temporarily shuttered or restricted some businesses, including restaurants, gyms and hair salons, in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Representing the state, the attorney general's office called on the court to dismiss the case, asserting that the governor has the jurisdiction to manage disasters by restricting business.
In Tuesday's decision, Borgen granted the state's requested dismissal.
"The Court concludes the disputed executive orders did not exceed the Governor’s constitutional and statutory authority in this case,” Borgen wrote. “The challenged executive orders were a proper exercise of the state’s police powers delegated by the legislature, and the Governor’s and the State’s authority to manage public emergencies."
The Somerset Court salon continued operations beyond Burgum's shutdown order, and Riggin was fined $1,000 for allegedly violating the order. Arguments in that case are scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 9.
Lynn Boughey, an attorney representing Somerset Court, said he hopes for a swift decision in the criminal trial. If his client loses, he said he hopes to appeal both the criminal and civil decisions to the state supreme court at the same time.
Readers can reach reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at firstname.lastname@example.org.