Pointing to his “discretionary” powers in dealing with emergencies, Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking a circuit judge to toss out a lawsuit aimed at forcing statewide beach closures because of the novel coronavirus.
Attorneys for DeSantis filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed by Santa Rosa Beach lawyer Daniel Uhlfelder amid debate about whether groups of beachgoers — including spring break crowds of college students — have worsened the spread of COVID-19, the deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
Local governments have closed most beaches, though DeSantis has resisted a blanket closure order. The motion to dismiss the lawsuit raised a series of arguments, including that the governor has legal discretion in deciding how to use his emergency authority. Also, it said a court decision forcing DeSantis to close beaches would violate the constitutional separation of powers and that Uhlfelder lacks legal standing to pursue the case.
“To be sure, plaintiff may believe a variety of alternative actions are superior to those of the governor,” the motion said. “But just because plaintiff believes he knows best does not confer a justiciable controversy.”
Uhlfelder initially filed the lawsuit March 20 in Leon County circuit court and filed an amended version Sunday. The amended complaint (see below) seeks an injunction ordering statewide closure of beaches.
“DeSantis is obligated by the Florida statutes, the Florida Constitution and his oath of office to take the basic step of issuing a statewide beach closure order to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19,” the amended complaint said. “Mr. DeSantis’ failure to issue a statewide beach closure order is an abject failure of his obligation to faithfully execute the Florida statutes, observe the Florida Constitution and thereby uphold his oath of office.”
The amended lawsuit also sought to require DeSantis to issue an order directing people to stay at home — a so-called “safer at home” order. DeSantis issued such an executive order Wednesday.
The order does not explicitly address beaches, but it says people “shall limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.”
A list of those essential activities includes recreational activities such as walking, biking, fishing and running, so long as people comply with social-distancing guidelines. The guidelines include limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people and keeping a six-foot distance from other people.
Leon County Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll held a case-management conference Wednesday in Uhlfelder’s lawsuit, which said that eight counties had not closed beaches. The filing Wednesday by DeSantis’ attorneys said 30 of 34 coastal counties had closed beaches or restricted access.
“The potential harm, if any caused by closing Florida’s beaches is vastly outweighed by the high risk of the continued, rapid spread of COVID-19,” Uhlfelder’s lawsuit said. “The public policy goal of blunting the spread of one of the most far-reaching and deadly viral outbreaks in human history is served by closing Florida’s beaches.”
But DeSantis’ attorneys wrote that Uhlfelder’s argument that the governor is obligated by law to close beaches statewide is a “baseless assertion.”
“Lest there be any doubt: Plaintiff has not pointed to a single constitutional or statutory provision that would require Governor DeSantis to issue a statewide mandatory beach-closure order or a statewide recommended safer-at-home order,” the motion to dismiss the case said. “And Governor DeSantis is unaware of any legal authority that would require him to do so.”
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
David S. says
Can’t wait till election time DeSantis your done …
Had enough says
Man! People are really bored enough to be filing lawsuits. It’s a beach for crying out loud! Leave we the people alone.
Obviously everyone thinks they would be a better mayor. Didn’t see your name on the ballot.
Sara Fabrizio says
Florida Governor: Houses Of Worship Are Exempt From State’s Stay At-Home Order
REALLY I am no genius however I do believe that is more than 10 people !!!!!!!!!!!!
Most churches have an online service and if yours doesn’t you can search other cities and states….
In my opinion he doesn’t give a hoot about the people of FLORIDA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Pissed in PC says
In regards to this lawsuit, the governor has an obligation to the citizens of Florida to protect the health and safety of them. He closes the beaches when a hurricane is approaching and afterwards till such time the beach is deemed safe. By looking at what happened during spring break when south Florida closed the beaches, these kids moved on to other beaches that were open and now we know many of these kids were infected. When Flagler and Jacksonville closed their beaches the crowds showed up at St. John’s beaches. By not ordering all beaches closed puts the public health and safety at risk. The Keys closed completely to any visitors weeks ago.
DeSantis left beach and churches open, but intended to keep those cruise ships with fellow Americans and thousands of other human beings some sick on them, away at sea from docking “on the port of call”. Thank God that our public outcry and our brave reporters asking the One in Control on National TV changed that idiocy and the ships were allowed to dock now! So lets keep the pressure on these bozos to do the right thing as at least united and demanding for common sense to be done, we can make it better. Also so shameful what done to that hero Navy Captain Commander of the aircraft carrier, to be booted for preserving the lives of his sailors!! Mostly young kids probably like when my son served at 18 years old. As probably no response was given in time he risk it all to save those kids! The excuse of endangering the carrier is BS as we are not at war right now like the fired Captain wrote!
This is shit that takes place only in totalitarian regimes with the like of Potus-Kushner holding the baton.
Concerned Citizen says
So let me get this straight. Thousands of people are sick and dying. But you want to sue because you can’t go to the beach? You’re a special kind of asshat aren’t you? Priorities mixed up much?
The beaches were closed because people were not abiding by social distancing even after it was ordered. They tried to leave the beaches open but folks wouldn’t comply. There are hundreds of pictures and video to prove it. But hey let’s sue right? So how is it the governments fault your unhappy and can’t go play? That’s OK I’ll wait for an answer.
This nation is one of the most sue happy around. We sue when we are mad. We sue when it’s to hot or cold. Class action law suits are one reason why things cost so much now.
What people need to realize is these measures were only temporary. But will continue as long as people fail to cooperate. Stay home and let this thing run it’s course.
I work in an essential service and I have to go to work every day. I wonder often when it’s my time to get sick. I have a girlfriend who is an RN and I haven’t seen her in 3 weeks minus Skype and Facebook messenger. She’s working 14 to 16 hour days. So that’s why my patience is a little thin when it comes to stupid stuff like this.
I hope they toss out these law suits. And then turn around and counter sue for harrassment and frivelous law suits. It would be well deserved.
Actually, the lawsuit was filed because DeSantis did NOT close all the beaches. Plaintiff wants the beaches closed. DeSantis has left the decision to close beaches up to local gov’t.
Words of Wisdom says
Beaches should have never been closed to residents in FLAGLER Beach. There are simple means to allow responsible residents to use this natural feature that drew us to buy here, at no additional cost, but council has plugged both ears with their index fingers and close their collective minds to reasonable alternatives. Recreating in salt water could not be a better remedy in so many ways to keep this virus at bay. By shutting the beach down, the town (FB) puts responsible people who use the beach regularly in harms way not allowing us to use this cleansing, therapeutic resource. Closing the beaches may bring way more lawsuits for unreasonably infringing on our pursuit of happiness, along with staying healthy. The local government is much too antiquated to think for themselves or outside the box. Rather, they do what makes it easy on themselves. Most on council / city probably haven’t felt sand in their toes for quite some time, so therefore, they won’t consider ways to allow responsible residents to enjoy why we bought here. They would rather just pull the plug on your voice. ITS MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY in Flagler Beach. Unfortunately, those that make the rules eventually get old (Hey, sonny!) and no longer know what responsible fun is. They just wag a bent, arthritic finger and frown at those that still enjoy our beach amenities, rather than spending all day on the lazy boy recliner and caring more about who wins the big prize package on the Price Is Right or who is the daily guest is on Ellen or The View. ———Sorry, I just threw up in my own mouth a little.
OK, I’m done now.
PS – Please spare me the “selfish” buzzword. Is that in the CDC playbook for how to counter reasonable arguments? DOESN’T WORK.