A lawsuit against many of Maryland’s top officials is targeting laws crafted in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The suit, filed on Saturday, names Gov. Larry Hogan, Health Secretary Robert Neall, Deputy Secretary of Public Health Services Frances B. Phillips and Maryland State Police Superintendent Woodrow W. Jones, III, as its defendants.
Filed by a number of religious leaders, state delegates, and businesses, the lawsuit is asking the court to step in and stop the executive orders and other regulations they claim are violating the rights of the people of Maryland.
While the lawsuit had been under discussion for weeks, one of the suit’s plaintiffs, Maryland Del. Neil Parrott, said the decision to push forward this weekend came when Del. Dan Cox was told he needed to cancel his plans to speak at Saturday’s Open Maryland rally.
“He was approached by the Maryland State Police, who said he shouldn’t go and if he did go they threatened him with arrest, with up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.”
Parrott, a Republican who represents Washington County, said they used Hogan’s stay-at-home order as their reasoning.
“But that’s really a violation of the freedom of assembly, it’s a violation of allowing us to speak our minds,” said Parrott.
He also said the person who created that order is constantly guilty of violating it.
“The governor has his own news conferences where, if you use that same logic, you could say he’s violating the stay-at-home order,” Parrott said.
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The lawsuit includes photographic evidence of the governor and members of his staff holding news conferences and meetings in groups, without proper social distancing and some not wearing masks.
That said, Parrott believes the governor overstepped his authority by creating the orders in the first place.
“There’s an executive branch, a legislative branch and a judicial branch. They should have all equal authority. If a new law is going to be implemented, or put into place, that needs to come form the legislative branch,” said Parrott.
He cites the example of the governor’s order insisting all residents wear masks. He believes that is not just getting rid of old laws or suspending a current law, but is creating a whole new law.
“And the governor, I don’t think he has the authority to do that. Part of this lawsuit is to ask that question and if he doesn’t have the authority let’s make sure we remove that authority now,” said Parrott.
While the lawsuit does go after Hogan by name, Parrott said this is not just about Hogan.
“This is about setting precedent for the future,” he said. “I believe Gov. Hogan is a good governor. I believe he has a good heart and wants to help Marylanders the best he can. But you know if we had a governor that wasn’t looking out for the best of Marylanders, we could be in big trouble if this precedent is allowed to stand.”