Ruling favors governor in lawsuit over bar closures

Gov. Jim Justice

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled in favor of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice in a lawsuit over his decision to close bars in student-heavy Monongalia due the coronavirus pandemic.

The owners of 12 establishments sued the governor last month for ordering them to close after pictures were posted online of college students in Morgantown packing bars without masks.

U.S. District Judge John Bailey issued an order Tuesday denying a motion for injunctive relief on behalf of the businesses, news outlets reported.

Bailey said the “right to do business” has not been recognized as constitutionally protected and the claims “ignore the grave nature of why the Governor issued a state of emergency.”

The judge noted that the businesses are currently allowed to operate since the order was lifted on Oct. 13, but said even if they weren’t, it wouldn’t constitute deprivation that would entitle them to due process protections.

“There is no public interest in attending bars when we are dealing with a pandemic, especially in counties experiencing surges of new COVID-19 cases,” Bailey said. “Doing so will only increase the spread of COVID-19, endangering not only the bar attendees but also their families and friends and the health care institutions in Morgantown which have to take care of the virus’ victims.”

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