Freedom Foundation
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Court Order Would Prevent Inslee From Using L&I To Enforce COVID-19 Shutdown

It isn’t enough that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee continues to drag his feet about lifting the stay-home order he imposed in early March to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Now he also wants to designate the state’s Department of Labor and Industries as his enforcement arm and empower it to investigate and discipline those who violate its unlawful provisions.

Consequently, the Freedom Foundation on Thursday asked a Chelan County judge for a temporary restraining order preventing that action.

“It’s become obvious to everyone but Jay Inslee that Washingtonians no longer need to live in a protective bubble,” said Freedom Foundation Litigation Counsel Sydney Phillips. “In any case, if the governor has no authority to impose these conditions on free individuals himself, he has even less to delegate the dirty business of carrying out his edict to a state agency that was never created for such a purpose.”

“Washington’s residents are perfectly capable of taking the steps necessary to safeguard themselves and their loved ones,” Phillips said. “Nothing gives the governor the power to decide which businesses are more expendable than others — or authorizes L&I to enforce such an order.”

The Freedom Foundation’s request for a temporary restraining order will be made on behalf of Slidewaters LLC, a family-owned and operated water park on the shores of Lake Chelan.

Established in 1983, the park is one of the most popular attractions in the tourist mecca. Just as importantly, Slidewaters provides summer employment for more than 150 community residents — and would be doing so now if not for the governor’s order.

Freedom Foundation attorneys will argue that L&I cannot be judge and jury to enforce Inslee’s stay-home edict. Moreover, Inslee cited the emergency powers of his office as the basis for his actions, but under Washington law, a state of emergency can only be declared in cases of “public disorder, (natural) disaster, energy emergency or riot.”

None of those conditions was ever present and, even if they were, Inslee’s authority to issue such orders ended when “order was restored.”

“The governor doesn’t have a license to shut down law-abiding businesses just because he believes the reasons for doing so constitute an emergency,” Phillips said.

Now the governor wants to compound matters by delegating to a public agency the responsibility for punishing people who are simply trying to make a living.

“It’s despicable,” Phillips said, “and we’re confident the courts will put a stop to it.”