Former Arkansas Gov.Mike Huckabee (R) and several of his neighbors — whose properties on the Gulf Coast of Florida have private beaches — have filed a federal lawsuit challenging a county government ordinance which temporarily closes all beaches. The county took the step in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Huckabee and his neighbors claim the order prevents them from “being able to use or even set foot in their own backyards.”
The lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida against Walton County and its sheriff, claims that the local government’s efforts to enforce the social distancing measure violates the property owners’ constitutional rights.
According to the complaint, the county, its sheriff, its code enforcement officers, and the South Walton, Fla. Fire District “have been and are currently patrolling and occupying the private beachfront properties” without permission and threatening to “arrest or fine Plaintiffs, their family members, or invitees on their private properties.”
The plaintiffs have requested that the court issue an injunction blocking the county from enforcing the ordinance. They argue that the order was illogical and would actually increase the spread of the virus.
“The Amended Ordinance is arbitrary and capricious. The Amended Ordinance purports to be designed to ‘prevent the spread of COVID-19’ yet it has the opposite effect,” Plaintiffs wrote. Per them:
“The Amended Ordinance prevents the Plaintiffs, many of whom own residences along the beach, from utilizing their own backyards to quarantine or stay safe at home. The chances of a family or landowner catching or spreading COVID-19 is far less in his or her own private backyard (where no one else should be less they be trespassing) than traveling to the grocery store or hardware store or other essential business.”
Huckabee and his neighbors asked the court to declare that the ordinance constitutes a “temporary taking” of their private property in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and to issue an injunction rendering the ordinance unenforceable. The Plaintiffs also asked the judge to grant them “just compensation and attorney fees” from the county and sheriff.