The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed on Friday a statement of interest in a case in the US District Court for the District of Maine concerning the mandatory self-quarantine of out-of-state visitors. The filing came as district court judge Lance Walker denied a preliminary injunction to the plaintiffs in the case.
As part of the response to COVID-19, Maine Governor Janet Mills issued Executive Order 34 on April 3. This requires all persons entering Maine, whether residents or non-residents, to self-quarantine for fourteen days. The order also contains limitations on lodging providers, closing them for all purposes except providing shelter for vulnerable populations, for essential workers, and for self-quarantine. Violators of the order could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Several Maine businesses and non-Maine residents filed a lawsuit against the governor’s order. They argued that the governor cannot impose restrictions upon non-residents’ fundamental right to travel and participate in Maine’s economy, while simultaneously allowing Maine residents to freely travel within the state and engage in economic activity. The DOJ became involved on Friday, filing a statement of interest that claims the governor’s order violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. The DOJ argues that the order is not narrowly tailored because it requires self-quarantine of all non-residents, even if they are coming from localities that have fewer active COVID-19 cases than Maine.
Judge Walker denied the motion for a preliminary injunction brought by the plaintiffs, noting that they are unlikely to succeed on the merits of their case. Governor Mills issued a statement on Friday in which she said she was “frankly disgusted” by the DOJ’s attempt to intervene in the case, and she suggested the move was politically motivated rather than in the interest of the well-being of Maine residents.
The DOJ also filed a statement of interest Friday in a case before a federal court in Colorado challenging state-imposed restrictions on church services due to COVID-19.