State withdraws injunction to shut down Rutland gym after facing counter legal action from lawyer

The state of Vermont has withdrawn an injunction to force Club Fitness in Rutland to close after it received counter injunctions from the gym’s lawyer challenging the legality of the shutdown.

The gym has been reopened and closed again twice since Scott issued lockdown orders for businesses across the state two months ago. The state will continue with a lawsuit against the gym, while the gym still has its own litigation against the state.

On Friday, Gov. Phil Scott announced that gyms can reopen on June 1 with up to 25 people inside. The state Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) has issued health and safety requirements and procedures for “close contact businesses” to resume operations. The guidelines cover gyms, fitness centers, nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors, as well as cleaning services and similar services that do home visits.

Vermont’s Attorney General TJ Donovan on May 15 requested a preliminary injunction against Club Fitness owner Sean Manovill. This week Manovill’s lawyer, St. Johnsbury attorney Deb Bucknam, filed a counter request for a preliminary injunction against the state so that her client can re-open his gym. It questioned the governor’s legal authority to force businesses to close in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 54 Vermonters, mostly seniors.

Michael Bielawski/TNR

St. Johnsbury-based attorney Deborah Bucknam

Manovill’s lawyer also questioned whether the governor’s orders even warranted the restraining order.

“I tried to show that it went beyond his authority in the statute, and also that it was unconstitutional, since a governor cannot just declare an emergency and decide what that emergency is and how long that emergency is going to last without some kind of limitations either by the court or by the legislature,” Bucknam told True North by phone.

“What the governor is doing essentially is he is legislating by issuing orders regarding the closing of businesses,” she said.

Bucknam also demanded that the state allow the gym to operate at full capacity.

Bucknam said another issue involved in the litigation relates to the requirement that if property is taken by the state, the state is obligated to cover the expenses incurred from the seizure. She said a regulation that essentially causes a business to close “is considered at taking.”

Donovan said he will continue with his lawsuit against Manovill, which threatens civil penalties up to $1,000 per day.

Bucknam said that in light of the governor’s decision to allow gyms to reopen, she must review the situation with her client and make any necessary adjustments.

“We would by Monday let the state and the court know which parts of the order are acceptable and if there are any parts that are not acceptable, and then hopefully hold a hearing by the end of the week,” she said.

She said she hasn’t yet discussed with Manovill what would be acceptable terms for reopening.

“If the governor says 25 people, and that’s acceptable to him, then we may withdraw our own motion,” she said.

Manovill has told True North the shutdown has been devastating for his finances, and he has a family to care for, including two young children.

Bucknam said that the governor is allowed executive powers if there is an emergency, as long as it is limited to the duration of the emergency. However, she says the law was never intended for a prolonged outbreak that can last for months.

“At least one court has said it’s no longer an emergency if the legislature has time to deal with it,” she said.

Bucknam explains that if this coronavirus is to be a new benchmark for an emergency to justify a state takeover of the economy without any due process, it sets a dangerous new precedent.

“Under that criteria, you could declare anything an emergency,” she said.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of clubfitnessvt.com and Michael Bielawski/TNR
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12 thoughts on “State withdraws injunction to shut down Rutland gym after facing counter legal action from lawyer

  1. What happened to class action…bring on the lawyers and Go Fund Mes…hammer down and go for the jugular…and don’t stop until damages are paid for time period following the phantom ‘curve’ flattening as this was the edict in the beginning.

    But Chancellor Scott as budding dictator expanded scope to avoid lawsuits which would have been filed if businesses knew what would be the true destruction from snakeshifter Phil Scott.

    We now see the TJ and fellow apparatchik sidekick Phil for the PaperTigered cowards and business-siezing communists they are.

  2. Good for the owner and his attorney! Go get ’em! I hope everyone takes note and more take action to protect their livelihoods.

  3. This has nothing to do with any virus.
    This has to do with power and control.
    “I, the state, am in charge”.
    L’etat, c’est Moi!!

    I say jump.
    You ask, how high.

    Donovan is on a self-serving ego trip, getting attention, enforcing edicts with $1000/d fines, on business that are teetering on bankruptcy, while he is collecting his paycheck, week after week, like clockwork, courtesy of us suckers, who are being sucked dry.

    Vote the a holes out.

    • If a couple dozen different groups filed suit in the next week, we’d see the State folding faster than a cheap suit.

  4. We can only hope this goes to the supreme court and TJ gets his “you know what” handed to him. What they did to this poor guy is disgusting and obviously illegal. I hope Sean’s business is able to come back in spades so he can support his family… A decision he and his customers alone should have been able to make together all along. If they wanted to stay home, that’s their right (and maybe the right call if they are old or otherwise vulnerable), but to mandate it at the state level using nothing but an emergency declaration is a horrible overreach of the governor’s power.

    They hit the nail on the head… If the legislature has time to work on laws surrounding the issue, it is by definition no longer an emergency granting the governor power.

    • Well stated, I for one think that Donovan is using the law to over reach all the time, we need to fire him. How dare he think he has jurisdiction over owners of businesses……….

      • T. “Jackboot” Donavon needs MORE than “His you know what” handed to him.

      • You all have to remember that the legislators are behind all this. They tell Scott what to do and say. They have stripped all power from Scott. He hasn’t got the b—s to stand up to them. They are the dictators of Vermont. From the moment they stepped into Vt they put their plans in action. They have plans to put all small businesses they find a threat to their plans out of business. They only want their kind of businesses in Vermont. The taxes in Vermont will rise so high that the true Vermonters won’t be able to live in Vt. Look at these out of staters who now are in our Vt government, they are taking over. They don’t want Vermonters to stand up to them. They expect us to bow to them and obey them. They don’t want big businesses to be in Vt. how many businesses have come to Vt and have left, because they can’t afford the taxes. Donovan has gotten power-hungry along with the idiots in the legislation.

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