[7/14/21] Slidewaters Loses Appeal In Court

Posted in Business & Economy, Politics, Recreation

Slidewaters, which sued Gov. Jay Inslee over his COVID-19 restrictions, has lost its appeal in federal court. 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the Governor had the authority to restrict and even close businesses as needed during the public health emergency, and that “the substantive due process rights of the waterpark, its owners, and its employees were not violated by defendants’ actions.” The ruling supports an earlier dismissal of the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

In May 2020, when restaurants, theaters and most other gathering places were closed or heavily restricted to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Slidewaters sued to nullify the Governor’s public health orders, as well as the rules adopted by the state Department of Labor and Industries to enforce them.

Slidewaters owners Robert and Burke Bordner chose to reopen the waterpark June 20, despite the state-ordered shutdown. By that point in the pandemic, COVID-19 had killed an estimated 1,421 people in Washington. A federal court judge rejected their lawsuit in July, and L&I fined the business almost $10,000 and ordered its shutdown. Slidewaters has appealed the fine.

Slidewaters was represented in the suit by the conservative nonprofit Freedom Foundation, which immediately appealed the lower court ruling. The three-judge Ninth Circuit panel said the waterpark’s objections to Inslee’s executive orders “amounts simply to a disagreement with the judgment” of the governor and the state agencies.

“Slidewaters is confident, as it states in its opening brief, that it ‘could and can operate safely,’” U.S. Circuit Judge Richard R. Clifton wrote for the panel. “But government regulation does not constitute a violation of constitutional substantive due process rights simply because the businesses or persons to whom the regulation is applied do not agree with the regulation or its application.”

Lawyers for the Freedom Foundation and the Washington Attorney General’s Office argued the case before the Ninth Circuit on June 7.