Department of Justice Files Statement of Interest Challenging the Constitutionality of Maine Governor’s COVID-19 Orders that Economically Harm Maine Campgrounds
(STL.News) – The Department of Justice today filed a statement of interest in a Maine federal court in support of a lawsuit filed by campgrounds in Maine—and New Hampshire residents who wish to enjoy them—challenging a measure by Governor Janet Mills in response to COVID?19 that treats Maine residents more favorably than out-of-state residents when they seek to patronize campgrounds and RV parks within Maine.
The Statement of Interest is part of Attorney General William P. Barr’s April 27, 2020 initiative directing Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Matthew Schneider, to review state and local policies to ensure that civil liberties are protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The United States Constitution requires government to protect the privileges and immunities of all citizens in our nation,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “These privileges and immunities include the right of Americans to travel freely anywhere in our country, and state governments cannot limit the right of out-of-state Americans to travel to their state unless doing so is substantially related to protecting the public safety. The Department of Justice remains committed to defending the constitutional rights of all Americans no matter where they live. The department will continue to be especially vigilant of any infringement on the right to travel that unduly harms the ability of Americans to earn a living and support their families.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of Maine has issued Executive Orders that have continued to inflict significant economic harm on campground businesses. On April 3, 2020, the Governor required campground and RV parks to close and also compelled “any person, resident or non-resident, traveling into Maine” to “immediately self-quarantine for 14 days” unless that person was engaged in “essential services.” On April 29, the Governor issued another Executive Order, which incorporates a “Restarting Plan.” The Restarting Plan provides that the State’s “Campgrounds/RV parks” will be “[o]pen to Maine residents only on May 22” and “[o]pen to out-of-state residents who have completed quarantine guidelines on June 1.”
Maine’s self-quarantine requirement has contributed to the significant economic harm being suffered by campground businesses that rely on out-of-state patrons each summer for their income. For example, the yearly revenue for plaintiff Little Ossipee Campground, a small family business in Waterboro, Maine has fallen by over $90,000. Similarly, plaintiff Bayley’s Campground has received over 700 reservation cancellations, refunded over $150,000 in reservation fees, and lost over $260,000 in revenue.
These campgrounds, along with New Hampshire residents who wish to enjoy them, brought a constitutional challenge on May 15 against various aspects of the Governor’s Orders. According to plaintiffs, requiring only out-of-state residents to self-quarantine before patronizing campgrounds in Maine violates the federal constitutional right to interstate travel.
In its statement of interest, the United States explains that Maine’s quarantine requirement discriminates between Maine residents and out-of-state residents. This discrimination appears to be inadequately tailored to further public safety and therefore does not comply with the Constitution. Maine’s Executive Orders are imposing devastating economic costs on the plaintiff campgrounds with a requirement that is both overinclusive and underinclusive to meet its objective and for which Maine could use less restrictive means to advance its interest in protecting public safety.