Kentucky Governor, Top Cop Spar Over Virus Restrictions (1)

(Adds new paragraphs 5 through 8, updating with Cameron’s comment about social-distancing orders imposed on churches and a comment from Beshear responding to this litigation.)

Kentucky’s Republican attorney general and Democratic governor are at loggerheads over the governor’s order demanding that interstate travelers isolate themselves in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron on Monday filed a motion to switch sides and oppose Gov. Andy Beshear in a lawsuit filed by two residents. The suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky seeks to invalidate Beshear’s travel prohibition that requires a 14-day, self-quarantine period for anyone who violates the rules, and provides few exceptions, such as for those who work across state lines.

“Kentucky law is clear that the Attorney General has standing to question ‘the authority for and constitutionality of the Governor’s actions’ because it’s in the people’s interest ‘that there be no unconstitutional or illegal government conduct,’” Cameron said in the motion. He said the governor has “overstepped the (U.S. ) Constitution.”

Beshear, the previous attorney general, frequently challenged the actions of former Gov. Matt Bevin (R). Cameron’s motion includes citations to a 2016 decision in which the Kentucky Supreme Court allowed Beshear to oppose Bevin.

At a Tuesday news conference in Frankfort, Cameron said he’d also file a separate suit against Beshear unless the governor allowed religious institutions an exemption from state social-distancing orders that prohibit in-person gatherings of more than than 10 people.

“Even in the midst of a pandemic, the Constitution must be given its appropriate meaning,” Cameron said. “I’m in the judgment that these orders aren’t narrowly tailored; they aren’t the least-restrictive means.”

Beshear said he’s not singling out churches, but is instead prohibiting in-person religious services like any other public gathering.

“I’m not trying to set rules that are difficult or controversial, I’m just trying to set rules to save people’s lives,” Beshear said during his Tuesday news conference in Frankfort. He also said that in similar litigation the state has received rulings from judges “indicating that they are likely to rule that everything we’ve done is legal.”

The case is: Alessandro v. Beshear, E.D. Ky., No. 3:20-cv-23, 4/27/20

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com; Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com

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