A judge Friday granted a request by the state temporarily blocking the depositions of one current and one former state official in a lawsuit brought by fitness center chains that want a relaxing of state and Los Angeles County health orders aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney also ruled that all discovery between the state and the California Fitness Alliance is on hold until he decides whether the gym owners’ allegations can survive their first legal test. That will come when Mooney hears a Dec. 30 motion by the state to dismiss all the CFA’s claims.
In the complaint filed Sept. 14, the CFA argues that the state and county should not continue preventing Californians from having what the plaintiffs maintain is equitable and safe access to indoor fitness centers and the proven benefits, including maximizing their resilience to COVID-19. They say exercise is vital to physical and mental health.
The suit asked that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order be ended and that a judge find that county officials abused their discretion by refusing to allow fitness establishments to reopen after the closure order was issued July 13.
The Attorney General’s Office filed court papers with Mooney after lawyers for the plaintiffs sought the depositions of someone in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration familiar with the pandemic-related orders as well as that of Dr. Sonia Angell, the state’s former public health officer who resigned in August.
Deputy Attorney General Brian S. Chan maintains in his court papers that the depositions and related discovery are premature and will result in “unwarranted oppression, undue burden and expense.” Chan further argues in his court papers that the depositions should be delayed at least until the court has ruled on another motion the state plans to file challenging the validity of the plaintiffs’ claims.
However, plaintiffs’ attorney Scott J. Street states in his court papers that the depositions need to be taken before the CFA can move forward with a motion of its own for a preliminary injunction. Street further maintains that Angell’s expected testimony “goes to the heart of the issues raised in this case.”
The CFA believes Newsom forced Angell to resign because he wanted to avoid the more permissive reopening plan that she designed in May in favor of keeping restrictions in effect in California even while other states were reopening, regardless of what the evidence showed, according to Street’s court papers.
Newsom replaced Angel with Dr. Erica Pan, the former health officer of Alameda County, who has been hostile to the fitness industry, refusing to let indoor facilities open even when the state allowed it, according to Street’s court papers.
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