A Lake County judge ordered an injunction against the Ohio Department of Health on Wednesday that allows gyms and health clubs to reopen.
Common Pleas Judge Eugene Lucci slammed Ohio Health Director Amy Acton in his order.
Lucci said Ohio law allows Acton to isolate sick people and quarantine people exposed to an illness during the period of incubation for a given disease, about 14 days in the case of the novel coronavirus. But the judge argues her powers stop there.
"The director has quarantined the entire people of the state of Ohio, for much more than 14 days," Lucci wrote. "The director has no statutory authority to close all businesses ... which she deems non-essential for a period of two months."
Gov. Mike DeWine and Acton ordered that all non-essential businesses close by March 24. The state is beginning to roll back some of those restrictions; gyms are allowed to reopen Tuesday.
The Cincinnati-based Finney Law Firm, which is representing the businesses in the case, said the injunction allows gyms, fitness centers and health clubs throughout the entire state to reopen immediately so long as they follow safety guidelines.
However, the injunction is not the end of the lawsuit. It just lifts the restrictions while the case works its way through the court system.
Lucci said the case has a high likelihood of success based on its merits.
"[Acton] has acted in an impermissibly arbitrary, unreasonable, and oppressive manner," the judge wrote. "The defendant has criminalized lawful businesses ... Some of the plaintiffs’ businesses will not survive the lockdown of two or more months."
According to the injunction, the health department, attorney general and law enforcement in Ohio is barred from imposing penalties "solely for non-compliance with the director's order" against gyms, health clubs, fitness centers and workout facilities until this case is resolved.
Lucci went on to say he had to grant the injunction for the public good.
"The general public would be harmed if an injunction was not granted. There would be a diminishment of public morale and a feeling that one unelected individual could exercise such unfettered power to force everyone to obey," he wrote. "The public would be left with feelings that their government is not accountable to them. Prolonged lockdowns have deleterious effects upon the public psyche."
If the lawsuit is successful, the gyms could also sue the state for damages due to lost income.
In a statement, the Finney Law Firm and The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, of which the firm is associated, said: "The ruling by Judge Eugene Lucci of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas explains that private property rights are fundamental rights in Ohio, and that the Ohio Department of Health has both violated those rights and exceeded its own authority."