Federal judge rules against gym owner who sued CA governor

The front entrance at Fitness System’s health club in Sacramento, with a copy of the Bill of Rights taped to the door. A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, that the owner had filed against California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials because of COVID-19 shutdowns. 

The front entrance at Fitness System’s health club in Sacramento, with a copy of the Bill of Rights taped to the door. A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, that the owner had filed against California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials because of COVID-19 shutdowns. 

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A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Joaquin County and Lodi officials that had been filed by the owner of three Sacramento-area gyms after officials ordered the shutdown of fitness centers last spring because of COVID-19.

After a Zoom hearing in Sacramento federal court, U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez agreed to requests by the defendants that the lawsuit be dismissed and found that the coronavirus pandemic was so dangerous that officials were within their authority when they first ordered the closures.

The orders were “a constitutional response to an unprecedented pandemic,” Mendez said.

Attorney John Killeen argued for the state that since Newsom’s original stay-at-home orders the state has loosened restrictions on fitness centers, including allowing some outdoor exercising and indoor workouts in San Joaquin County at 10% of capacity.

“A number of restrictions have been lifted,” Mendez said.

“I just don’t see any basis for allowing this lawsuit to go forward in the district court,” he added.

The suit was brought by Sean Covell, owner of Fitness System gyms in Land Park, West Sacramento and Lodi, and argued that the shutdown orders violated the Constitution and were costing his operations huge amounts of revenues and lost memberships.

The lawsuit was one of numerous complaints filed by fitness centers, churches and businesses against orders Newsom and health officials issued to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The lawsuits have largely been unsuccessful, although some are pending and yet another involving gyms in Dixon and Sacramento was filed in federal court in Sacramento on Monday.

Sam Stanton has worked for The Bee since 1991 and has covered a variety of issues, including politics, criminal justice and breaking news.

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