Water Park Takes Wash. COVID-19 Order Fight To 9th Circ.

By Adam Lidgett
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Law360 (July 16, 2020, 9:20 PM EDT) -- A Washington state water park has appealed to the Ninth Circuit a federal judge's decision tossing its challenge to Gov. Jay Inslee's emergency restrictions aimed at reining in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Family-owned Slidewaters LLC on Wednesday filed a notice of appeal of a Tuesday decision in which U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice threw out the water park's suit challenging state COVID-19 restrictions. The appeal was officially docketed at the Ninth Circuit on Thursday.

"The court was willing to give dictatorial powers to the governor, at the expense of the rights of Washington citizens," the Freedom Foundation, which is representing Slidewaters, said in a statement to Law360 on Thursday. "The Freedom Foundation stands by our clients' rights to operate their business in a safe manner, and the local health department deemed their reopening plan was sound (before the state government got involved)."

Judge Rice's Tuesday decision not only denied Slidewaters' bid for an injunction against the state restrictions but also tossed the water park's complaint. The court had earlier tossed the company's bid for a temporary restraining order against the state.

However, Judge Rice also kicked to state court the state's counterclaim accusing Slidewaters of violating the limitation on business activities by reopening.

The suit had challenged Inslee's imposition of limitations on businesses and a state Department of Labor and Industries rule allowing fines against nonconforming employers.

The first of the governor's proclamations was a "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order, while a later one imposed a four-phase reopening plan, according to the judge. Chelan County, where Slidewaters resides, is only in "Phase 1.5," according to the judge.

While the water park argued the governor went beyond his authority in issuing the limitations, the judge found otherwise Tuesday. The judge found that "the plain meaning of the governor's statutory authority to proclaim a state of emergency in the event of a 'public disorder' clearly encompasses an outbreak of pandemic disease."

The judge also said at the time that it wasn't his job "to second-guess the reasoned public health decisions of other branches of government."

The Washington state governor's office said in a brief comment to Law360 that it was confident in the state's win at the district court. 

"This case failed on the merits in federal district court and we expect that ruling to stand," the statement said. 

Slidewaters is represented by Sydney Phillips and Robert Bouvatte of the Freedom Foundation.

The state is represented by Zachary Pekelis Jones, Brendan Selby, Anastasia Sandstrom, Elliot S. Furst, Jeffrey T. Even and Emma Grunberg of the Washington Attorney General's Office.

The district court case is Slidewaters LLC v. Washington State Department of Labor and Industries et al., case number 2:20-cv-00210, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington.

The appellate case is Slidewaters LLC v. Washington State Department of Labor and Industries et al., case number 20-35634, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

--Editing by Daniel King.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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Case Information

Case Title

Slidewaters LLC v. Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, et al

Case Number



Washington Eastern

Nature of Suit

Civil Rights: Other


Thomas O. Rice

Date Filed

June 08, 2020

Case Title

Slidewaters LLC v. Washington State Dep't, et al

Case Number



Appellate - 9th Circuit

Nature of Suit

3440 Other Civil Rights

Date Filed

July 16, 2020

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