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Va. Supreme Court rejects gym owner’s request to open

(AP) The Supreme Court of Virginia has rejected an injunction request from a gym owner who is challenging the executive order that has closed his business.

Merrill Hall, who owns a chain of Gold’s Gym franchises and other gyms, sued the governor in Culpeper County Circuit Court. His lawyer, Republican state Sen. Bill Stanley, said Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, exceeded his authority by ordering fitness centers and other businesses closed to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

On May 19, the Supreme Court rejected the expedited appellate request for an injunction. Hall can still go forward with his lawsuit, but the governor’s order will remain in place while the issue is litigated.

Late last month, a judge in Culpeper also rejected the request for an injunction, saying state law gives the governor broad authority to issue executive orders during a public health emergency.

Several lawsuits have challenged various aspects of Northam’s executive orders. Most have found in the governor’s favor, though a judge in Lynchburg issued a limited ruling allowing a gun range there to open.

Stanley issued a statement saying the court’s ruling “gives a governor near-dictatorial powers” and said his client intends to move forward with the lawsuit and seek financial compensation for his losses.

Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, who defended the governor’s stance in court, said the governor’s efforts “have proven effective in slowing the spread of the virus.”

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