A group of businesses challenged the restrictions in a lawsuit brought in district court in Carlsbad, which prompted Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to petition the state’s highest court to resolve the dispute. The Supreme Court agreeded to take the case. The state Republican Party, House and Senate GOP leaders, and Eddy County were also allowed to submit written legal arguments.
The news release states the Supreme Court determined that the July 13, 2020 emergency public health emergency order’s temporary closure of indoor dining at restaurants and brewpubs was lawfully issued under the authority granted by the Legislature and was not “arbitrary and capricious.”
The Supreme Court says it concluded that the New Mexico Department of Health was not required to follow administrative rulemaking procedures to impose the emergency public health restrictions on indoor dining. The news release states the court rejected arguments that it should declare an “end date” to the authority of the governor and secretary of health to issue emergency orders so the Legislature could address the COVID-19 pandemic through its lawmaking role.
The Court also noted that the state has issued more than three dozen amended or supplemental emergency orders “in response to the swiftly changing dynamics of a novel, dangerous, and highly communicable disease.” According to the same news release, the state’s emergency public health orders establish a “series of temporary requirements to meet a crisis” immediately and do not serve the same function of a rule that guides the government on how to respond to a new health threat in the future. The court also stated the July public health order “does not work a fundamental disruption of the balance of powers between the branches of government in the context of this public health crisis.”