Judge hears lawsuit challenging Walz emergency orders

Gov. Tim Walz addresses a news conference
Gov. Tim Walz addresses a news conference Wednesday, July 1, 2020 in St. Paul. A lawsuit challenging Gov. Tim Walz and his use of emergency powers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was argued Thursday in Ramsey County District Court.
Jim Mone | AP Photo

Gov. Tim Walz has overstepped his authority in using emergency powers to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, a lawyer argued before a Ramsey County judge Thursday, while a lawyer for the governor countered that the idea the coronavirus emergency is over defies common sense.

A dozen Republican state lawmakers and a group called the Free Minnesota Small Business Coalition filed a lawsuit claiming that Walz, a Democrat, abused his powers by issuing numerous executive orders under the peacetime emergency he declared to address COVID-19.

The lawsuit argues that Walz overstepped his bounds and interfered with the legislative process.

The attorney for the plaintiffs, Erick Kaardal, said during the remote hearing that Walz also infringed on civil liberties with stay-at-home orders, business closures and restrictions on gatherings.

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“What the governor’s executive orders have done is take ordinary actions of human beings and make them a crime,” Kaardal said.

Solicitor General Liz Kramer, representing the governor, asked the judge to dismiss the case. Kramer said the lawsuit seeks to prevent future executive orders and void the 79 orders already issued which would leave the governor powerless if there is a second wave of the virus.

“This flies in the face of common sense,” Kramer said.

Kramer also noted that the state executive council and Legislature already have roles in determining whether an emergency continues.

Judge Thomas Gilligan took the case under advisement and said he would have a decision soon.