Lawsuit over health orders dismissed

Jen Sieve-Hicks, Buffalo Bulletin via Wyoming News Exchange
Posted 5/13/21

Judge Edelman ruled that petitioners lacked standing in the case because there is no direct connection between the health orders and any alleged injuries plaintiffs may have suffered, among other reasons.

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Lawsuit over health orders dismissed


BUFFALO — In an order issued Monday, Fourth Judicial District Court Judge William Edelman dismissed a lawsuit against Johnson County's public health officer and Gov. Mark Gordon on a variety of procedural issues. 

Edelman ruled that petitioners lacked standing in the case because there is no direct connection between the health orders and any alleged injuries plaintiffs may have suffered, among other reasons.

The plaintiff's case sought an immediate cessation of all current state COVID-19 health order restrictions.

“Dismissing a claim is a drastic remedy, which this Court applies sparingly and with great hesitation,” Edelman wrote in his ruling. “However, from the outset of this case, Petitioners failed to comply with the Wyoming Rules of Civil Procedure, Petitioners brought claims that are unsuited for the facts alleged, Petitioners failed to establish facts to support standing to bring the claims in the manner they pled, and consequently, Petitioners failed to state claims which this Court may grant relief.”

The lawsuit was filed in February by a group of 11 plaintiffs including Crosby Taylor of Kaycee, other individuals and two advocacy groups. The petitioners argued the state is guilty of multiple violations to the Wyoming and United States constitutions in its application of data containing inflated or faulty COVID-19 case numbers used to initiate unjustifiable health orders.

The case named Gordon, county health officers from all 23 counties, state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist and Wyoming Department of Health director Michael Ceballos.

The plaintiffs were represented by Buffalo attorney Nick Beduhn. Formerly of Cody, Beduhn has twice been suspended from practicing law in Wyoming for failing to provide his clients with competent defense.

Specifically, Edelman wrote that Taylor's "complaints about the Department of Revenue involving unrelated disputes about liquor purchases and sales tax delinquencies do not present a personal stake in the outcome of this case.”

In his ruling, Edelman wrote that because the petitioners failed to establish standing in the case, “this Court could stop the declaratory judgment analysis here, but will continue the analysis for the sake of comprehensiveness.”

Edelman continued, that the harms petitioners allege could not be traced to respondents' actions.

Additionally, petitioners failed to demonstrate that the relief sought — that all public health orders be stopped — would redress or prevent future harm.

"Petitioners' allegations do not establish that the relief requested will lead to an effective remedy,” Edelman wrote. “Most importantly, the relief requested is not an available remedy.”

Petitioners also failed to demonstrate how a judgement granting relief requested would affect their own rights or legal interests. Edelman wrote that many of the petitioners' complaints were not directly associated with the respondents, but with how other agencies or people interpreted or enforced the health orders, and petitioners failed to demonstrate how a ruling from the court could have an effect on those parties.

In March, Gordon, Harrist and Ceballos, through their attorneys, filed a motion to dismiss on procedural grounds, because the relief petitioners sought — a “declaratory injunction” — conflates two legal remedies. County health officers from 13 counties, including Johnson County also filed motions, through their attorneys, to dismiss or quash the case.

In a hearing on April 7 to hear arguments for motions to dismiss, counsel for the petitioners admitted that request for a “declaratory injunction” was intended to be pled as “declaratory judgement.”