April 21, 2020
Tens of thousands of Ohio businesses have been forcibly closed due to the order of Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, who on her own decided which categories of businesses would be deemed “essential” and “non-essential” during the COVID-19 crisis.
Today, a hearing was held before Judge Algenon Marbley, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, on a motion for Temporary Restraining Order in the case of Hartman et al. v. Acton et al. In that case, Finney Law Firm attorneys Curt C. Hartman, Rebecca Simpson Heimlich and Christopher P. FInney along with the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law argued simply that Tanya Hartman and her bridal shop, Gilded Social, are entitled to a due process hearing as to whether retail shops such as hers are properly categorized as “non-essential” and therefore subject to mandatory closure by the State. In other words, she simply asked for a hearing to ascertain the propriety of her closure under Ohio law and the US Constitution.
Now, I preface this by noting that I previously have appeared in front of Judge Marbley, and not only respect him as a Judge, but genuinely like him . He has at all times shown himself to be a knowledgeable and wise jurist, and a kind man as well.
Today, Judge Marbley, for a variety of reasons, ruled that Ms. Hartman and tens of thousands of similarly-situated businesses in Ohio have no right to a due process hearing following their forced closure by the State — at least on the emergency basis sought.
Rather, he scheduled a second hearing on May 11 on a Preliminary Injunction, a similar kind of relief but one that would last until resolution of the merits of the case.
One reason enunciated by Judge Marbley I found particularly unfortunate for the decision was that Ohio could not possibly hold hearings for the tens of thousands of businesses who might appeal their closure order. In other words, that due process would simply be overwhelming to the state bureaucrats if that right was recognized.
This notion is a frightening one indeed, reminding me of the forced internment of more than 120,000 US citizens of Japanese heritage during World War II without due process. In 1944, Fred Korematsu (Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944)) challenged the “yellow scare” incarceration of Japanese Americans based solely upon their ancestry. Naturally, the outrageous, unconstitutional and racist Order was borne of fear that Japanese Americans might hold dual loyalties and harm the United States during the War. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 that resulted in that forced internment, citing that irrational fear. From Wikipedia:
In a majority opinion joined by five other justices, Associate Justice Hugo Black held that the need to protect against espionage by Japan outweighed the rights of Americans of Japanese descent. Black wrote that: “Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race”, but rather “because the properly constituted military authorities…decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast” during the war against Japan.
Can you imagine if Justice Black had added as a reason for that now-discredited decision that the U.S. Courts could not possibly sustain petitions for freedom by 120,000 individuals? It would deeply offend our claim as a nation to equal justice under the law. What if the Governor incarcerated all 10,000,000 Ohioans (which effectively he has done)? Would it be an exception to a Habeas Corpus petition that the system would be overwhelmed to provide justice to that many Ohioans?
We don’t lose our Constitutional rights when everything is going swimmingly. Rather, they become subverted from circumstances that instill such fear in our populace that the Courts elect to ignore the clear meaning of our Constitution. In other words, fear drives bad court decisions.
Today, the State of Ohio repeatedly played the fear card — the boogie man of disease and death — if we simply afforded Ohio businesses due process rights in response to the devastation of their life’s work. And it worked.
Judge Marbley has a chance to correct this unfortunate decision at the upcoming Preliminary Injunction hearing and we hope to provide him with the legal arguments and evidence he needs to reach the correct conclusion to allow due process rights to be afforded to these businessmen and women who have had their hard work and risk of capital snatched from them by unthinking, uncaring arbitrary bureaucrats.
We very much look forward to Round #2.