Protesters unite against Gov. Bill Lee’s shutdown of the state’s economy in Nashville Sunday afternoon, insisting on their rights to engage in commerce and travel apart from his string of executive orders that have pushed the livelihoods of 6.8 million Tennesseeans into a depression so deep that national projections envision a 30 percent loss in GDP this year.
The event is organized a third time for speeches and signs demanding respect for constitutional liberties among Tennesseans.
“We’re here in between the capital and the health department to say look, we see you, we know that these bureaucratic committees are influencing policy, but it’s time for you to lay down your power,” organizer Kimberly Edwards tells WSMV.com TV news. “It’s time for the shut down the end, it’s time for our constitutional rights to be the No. 1 priority.”
Roller rink operator Perry Allen in with businesses in Blount and Anderson counties says he has lost $35,000 in revenue because he is prohibited from being open to the public by Gov. Lee’s executive order No. 17, 21, 22, 27 and 30 and indirectly by executive order Nos. 23 and 30.
His lawsuit filed in Davidson County chancery court says his expenses have been $20,000 in insurance common utilities, taxes and payroll.
Mr. Allen’s complaint says that TCA 58-to-107 “as applied to the plaintiffs does not give authority to defendant Gov. Lee to prohibit otherwise lawfully operating businesses from operating, and in any event is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers doctrine in other reasons more specifically pleaded here in below.”
The governor does not have authority to declare martial law or have unrestricted power to “dispose of plaintiffs, their liberties, or their property, or their customer and their customers liberties,” Mr. Allen says. The orders violate the Tennessee constitution and are invalid and unenforceable because the “underlying source of authority for those orders is invalid.”
Although the scope of actions taken by Gov. Lee are unprecedented, the duration of these executive orders, approximately 15 to 30 days at a time, it is too short to allow for litigation to take place under current procedural rules, even if a lawsuit was ready and served on the 1st day of the executive order, because procedural rules allow 30 days to respond to a complaint, the suit says. The attorney who files the complaint says the governor repealed order Nos. 17, 21, 22, 23 and 27 “several hours after plaintiffs gave notice of this lawsuit by facsimile on April 28.”
The suit says that “a violation of constitutional liberties, apart from the loss of revenue, is in and of itself an irreparable injury, and therefore collateral consequences remain.” It avoids provoking the state’s sovereign immunity against lawsuits by saying that doctrine does not lie because the roller rink operator does not seek “to reach to the state, its treasury, funds or property.”
The 14-page filing is found at https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/63302582/allen-et-al-v-william-b-lee-et-al, filed by W. Andrew Fox at Gilbert & Fox law firm in Knoxville. My own draft complaint to overturn the governor’s illegal project in executive power is at this link, taking only two pages. It cites the arbitrary and capricious nature of the EOs, indicating they have no force of law as they make illicit distinctions among like legal parties.
The state quarantine law requires the governor’s health commissioner to stem the spread of a disease in ways that bring “the least inconvenience to commerce and travel,” at Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-1-201, power to quarantine. The governor has pivoted the statute aimed at the sick specifically and aimed it at the healthy generally, thus violating his oath of office and numerous provisions of the state constitutions, one of the best in the U.S.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Bruce Griffey is waiting on a reply from Attorney General Herbert Slatery III in an inquiry letter sent 45 days after the initial executive order by Gov. Lee. Mr. Griffey gave me an interview Friday indicating that the orders suffer from the legal defect of being arbitrary and capricious. Mr. Griffey is a member of the legislative branch of state government exercising an office of trust in the judicial branch as an attorney.
In 2006, then-Attorney General Robert E. Cooper Jr. gave his take on gubernatorial executive authority, Opinion No. 06-172. https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/attorneygeneral/opinions/documents/2006/op06-172.pdf
Pro-constitution — but pro-police
Mr. Griffey, a Republican conservative, is pro-police. He makes note of national police week in a Facebook post Saturday:
“As National Police Week comes to a conclusion today, please join me in giving a salute to the Blue — all of our brave officers on the front lines — and to pray for the families of our fallen officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty to protect us and our communities.”
He gushes on: “Forever will they live as heroes. Law enforcement officers are critical to protect public safety and uphold the rule of law so individual liberty may flourish.”
Mr. Griffey says when he ran for election “I vowed to honor and support law enforcement any way I can, and I have tried my very best to honor such promise.”
He filed bill HB1706 to give F$100 million in raises to cops, HB1704 to increase the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony for any assault against a law enforcement officer, and is cosponsor the “Spencer Bristol Act” to increase the penalty for evading arrest that results in serious bodily injury to a cop or deputy.
“I have also cosponsored legislation to make law enforcement and correctional officers eligible for state retirement after 25 years of service, to increase the pay supplement to officers for completing in-service training, to increase immunity of law enforcement officers from lawsuits and to waive the lifetime handgun carry permit fees for retired law enforcement officers.”