Businesses Defend Themselves from County Lawsuit

On January 26, the Ventura County District Attorney’s office took The Pizza Cookery, Mrs Olson’s Coffee Hut, and Colosseum Bootcamp Gym to court for an administrative hearing to get a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against them to close their businesses. Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy is representing the businesses. Based on Fifth Amendment violations, Kennedy filed notices in the state court to remove these cases to the federal court. 

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors was contacted for comment. Conejo Guardian received a response from County Counsel, Michael Walker, who stated: 

“In all three cases, the businesses are represented by the same attorney who, before the state court could rule on the County’s requests for temporary restraining orders requiring the businesses to comply with state and local health orders, filed notices in the state court to remove the cases to federal court. The filing of the notices of removal automatically precluded the state court from taking any further action in the cases, and the state court stayed each case. The County is in the process of seeking remand of these cases back to state court – a process that plays out at the federal court level and may take several days.” Walker was able to move all three of these cases back to State Court on February 13. 

Matt Brimigion, the owner of Mrs. Olson’s, said, “I feel as though I’ve been targeted by the county for simply wanting to avoid losing my business.” Says Matt, “The county is suing me, putting pressure on the landlords to evict me, a process that started three weeks ago, and trying to get my doors chained shut, and [I] still haven’t been granted my day in court to defend myself.”   

The county has set forth an edict that certain businesses should close due to the dangers of COVID-19. The Governor’s office asserts that the health emergency grants them the right to shut down businesses for the good of public health. Thus, the Governor’s office has been keeping businesses, schools, churches, and other entities shut down for much of the time since March 2020. During this time, businesses have been placed in one of two categories, “Essential” or “Non-Essential,” and ultimately, indoor-dining restaurants have been deemed non-essential and hazardous. 

A growing number of businesses asserts that emergency powers are limited, and the county must have documented cause to force a business to remain closed. Additionally, business owners refer to the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, which states if any government body forces a business to close, then that business must be monetarily compensated by that government office. Orange County business owner Peggy Hall points out that “a free-standing ‘Mandate’ is not legally enforceable and that anything made ‘Mandatory’ to the general populace must connect to a law that has been passed by a legislative body, and that these edicts have not been voted into law.” 

The business owners’ sentiment is that they had no choice: Either open against the county edicts or roll over and accept bankruptcy. Barbara, co-owner of The Pizza Cookery, believes that if businesses reopened all at once, the county would not continue on this path. “The government can’t repress everybody if everybody pushes back together.” She continues, “The County has done nothing to ‘work with us’ as they claim. It has been a barrage of attacks for month after month.”

**The Conejo Guardian extends an open invitation to all city and county officials for pre-written statements or interviews on any topic covered by our publication.

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