Today Pacific Legal Foundation is putting Governor Gavin Newsom and Napa County officials on notice that their reopening plans are arbitrarily depriving individuals of their ability to responsibly resume business, which presents serious constitutional concerns.
We’ve written this letter in support of Quent and Linda Cordair, owners of Quent Cordair Fine Art gallery in Napa, California. The Cordairs want to reopen their 3,000-square-foot gallery to six customers at a time using state-recommended social-distancing and sanitation protocols—just as many other businesses are (or will soon be) allowed to do. But because they are considered a “Stage 3” business under the state’s reopening plans, they must stay shuttered indefinitely.
Napa County has been remarkably successful in curbing the spread of COVID-19; there are zero current hospitalizations in Napa today. The county is therefore allowing many businesses to begin reopening their doors, including bookstores, toy stores, jewelry stores, shoe stores, home and furnishing stores, sporting goods stores, antique stores, music stores, and more. But it is inexplicably denying the Cordairs that same right, increasing the risk that they will be forced to close forever and jeopardizing the livelihood of their employees and the 30 artists they represent.
This disparate treatment violates constitutional principles of due process and equal protection, which ensure that laws are a rational means for achieving legitimate ends rather than arbitrary restrictions on personal liberties. Courts across the country have already begun to strike down orders like the California and Napa County plans, which have hallmarks of discrimination or arbitrariness.
The Cordairs’ request is modest: If other businesses are allowed to open, why aren’t they allowed that same right? We are therefore asking that the state and county amend their reopening plans to give all businesses the equal right to open where they can do so consistent with state and local safety protocols.