Early this morning, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of hair salon owner Mary Rivard (of New London, New Hampshire) challenging Governor Christopher T. Sununu’s Executive Order 2020-08 and Emergency Order #40, which extended New Hampshire’s state of emergency until June 15, 2020, and extended the shutdown of “non-essential” businesses through May 31, 2020. The lawsuit also includes an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order enjoining the Governor from enforcing these orders.
The principal argument underlying the lawsuit is that the purpose for, and supposed “emergency” underlying, Governor Sununu’s original shutdown orders in March 2020 was that New Hampshire needed to “slow the spread” of the Coronavirus so New Hampshire’s healthcare system would not be overwhelmed. Over a month later, there was no question New Hampshire’s hospitals had never reached capacity: in a press conference on April 29, 2020, Governor Sununu explained just 10% of the COVID-dedicated beds in New Hampshire’s hospitals were occupied (approximately 100 of 1,000 beds). Indeed, data from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services supported Governor Sununu’s statement and showed New Hampshire’s hospitalization rate was dropping. Hospitals have also furloughed numerous employees. In other words, New Hampshire’s curve had “flattened” and had never really spiked at all.
Despite these facts, Governor Sununu issued Executive Order 2020-08 on April 24. A “state of emergency” automatically terminates after 21 days. A Governor may “renew” is if he or she finds it “necessary to protect the safety and welfare” of New Hampshire citizens. Although New Hampshire’s curve was “flat,” Executive Order 2020-08 renewed the “state of emergency” a second time, for another 21 days. Then, Emergency Order #40 extended the shutdown of “non-essential” businesses through May 31, 2020, and allowed certain businesses, such as Ms. Rivard’s hair salon, to re-open but only if they followed strict, arbitrary guidelines that make it virtually impossible to operate realistically or at a profit.
New Hampshire is now two months into this lockdown, and many “non-essential” businesses have been closed for a month and a half, and no end is in sight despite there being no “emergency” in New Hampshire. Ms. Rivard is facing the real possibility of closing her business permanently. She is seeking an emergency order restraining Governor Sununu from enforcing the above orders, as well as other Constitutional claims related to those orders and the shutdown.