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Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivers her weekly COVID-19 update from the Capitol on Thursday. 

The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has the authority to impose fines for violations of emergency public health orders that limit mass gatherings and require business closures.

“The Legislature has clearly given the governor that authority,” said Chief Justice Michael E. Vigil.

The court announced its unanimous ruling following about an hour of arguments and an hour of deliberations.

Lujan Grisham welcomed the ruling on Twitter.

“The state shouldn’t have to fine anybody,” she wrote. “Doing the right thing in a crisis shouldn’t be something we have to argue about. But anyone endangering the lives of New Mexicans will face the consequences.”

Several New Mexico businesses had filed a lawsuit against the governor and two state Cabinet secretaries, arguing the threat of civil penalties of up to $5,000 per day for violations of emergency health orders is not authorized by the New Mexico Public Health Emergency Response Act — except perhaps as sanctions against people who are court-ordered to quarantine or self-isolate.

The state Republican Party had helped organize the complaint, initially filed in the 9th Judicial District in Curry County.

“We are deeply disappointed in today’s Supreme Court decision,” Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said in a statement following the court’s announcement. “This ruling demonstrates the need to seek change at the polls this November by electing conservative judicial candidates who will help protect our freedoms and basic rights. What happens at the polls impacts what happens in our lives in New Mexico, and we must make a stand this fall on Election Day.”

The governor and businesses that oppose her stance on public health orders may be back in court soon in a similar case that has received plenty of notoriety.

The New Mexico Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit in state District Court in Carlsbad last month challenging the state’s authority to order establishments to close indoor dining again after briefly allowing the businesses to reopen at 50 percent capacity.

District Judge Raymond Romero issued a restraining order that temporarily stopped Lujan Grisham from enforcing her renewed ban on indoor dining, but lawyers for the governor quickly filed an emergency petition asking the state Supreme Court to suspend the judge’s order and keep the ban in place.



The high court granted the governor’s request within hours, putting indoor dining off-limits once again and ordering the parties to file arguments in the case by July 30.

The legal briefs are in, but the state Supreme Court has yet to indicate whether it will hear the case. Vigil has recused himself from hearing that case and will be replaced by state District Judge Thomas F. Stewart of Grant County.

The restaurant association declined to comment Tuesday.

The plaintiffs in Tuesday’s decision included K-Bob’s Steakhouse in Clovis; Frontier Auto Inc. and Body & Sol Fitness in Lovington; Kemp’s Investments and Colfax Tavern & Diner in Colfax County; J.Jones Massage in Hobbs; the owners of the businesses; and several individuals.

The high court on Tuesday declined to issue a ruling on the second part of the lawsuit, which had asked the court to declare the closures a “taking” — when a government seizes property for public use — and determine the plaintiffs were owed damages for lost revenues from the governor’s business restrictions.

According to the state Department of Health, 13 New Mexico businesses — including hotels and restaurants in Grants, Albuquerque, Silver City, Ruidoso, Roswell, Hobbs, Carlsbad and Eunice — have been fined $5,000 or more for violating orders. Some were fined $5,000 for every day they were found to be in violation of the orders.

Brian Bargsten, managing partner of Arroyo Vino, a wine shop and restaurant near Las Campanas and the only Santa Fe-area business fined, said his business was ordered to pay $145,000 for allowing patrons who were picking up takeout food to purchase wine as well after indoor dining was banned.

“It’s like if you went to an Albertsons or Whole Foods to buy a rib-eye [steak] and you bought wine while you were there,” he said.

Bargsten said a portion of the fine is related to alleged violations that occurred before the Department of Health even notified the business’s partners the state believed they were in violation.

Bargsten said he and his partner have had to retain legal counsel to help them fight the penalty through an administrative process, adding that paying the fine could cripple the business. Arroyo Vino employs 15 people.

“The important thing for people to know is we’ve always been deemed an essential businesses and always operated within the confines of the public health orders, and the state has failed to understand our business,” he said. “It’s really important to me that the public know we were not operating in a dangerous manner outside of the health order.”

(45) comments

Charles W Rodriguez

Pearce is such a low life bottom feeder. And the Republicans seem bent on destroying the republic. We need to can the lot of them! Vote 'em out!

Joseph Tafoya

Apparently you haven't been watching the Marxist Democrats in Portland, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Minneapolis Minnesota, and many more Marxist Democrat-run cities, where the Marxist Democrat leadership is allowing the destruction of their cities, the murder of their constituents. In some cases, they join in the "Destructive Demonstrations".

Stefanie Beninato

I bet you do not know what Marxism is but doesn't it sound awful to a right winger? How about the Liar in Chief's bromance with Putin? That doesn't seem to get your knickers in a twist. You do remember that Trump was impeached for soliciting help with this coming election by having Ukraine dig dirt on Biden while Trump withheld funds to defend Ukraine from Russian incursions and you do remember that Trump alleged he did not know of Russia's funding of bounties on US military. Take your blinders off!!!!

Robert Bartlett

You can shuck and you can jive. You can spray graffiti. But you can't take Marxism out of the new democrat party.

Emily Koyama

Impeached by a rabidly partisan Dem majority that hate him on a personal level, and wouldn't dare tick off Pelosi/Schumer and their agenda?

Big whoop.

Judith Senda

The Tiny Tyrant has won the battle, but will lose the war.

While it is possible (not likely, but possible) that her public health dictates will save some lives, it is guaranteed they will absolutely destroy many, many more. Taking away people’s means of earning a living to care for their families, keeping children from getting any reasonable education, killing New Mexico’s principal sources of revenue will have long lasting, and for some, everlasting effects.

It’s not an election year for governor, but when it is, vote her the Kluck out. (Don’t worry, she’ll be running for sure. No VP or cabinet position for her in a not-gonna-happen Biden administration.)

Jim Klukkert

Judith Senda- Does your comment 'The Tiny Tyrant' indicate that you agree with Pam Walker [little dictator] that physical stature has anything to do with the worth of a person.

In these difficult times when the world cries out for solutions, it just might be good if our discourse was elevated a tad above school yard epithets.

Thank you, Judith.

Emily Koyama

Pot calling the kettle black.... again.

Jim Klukkert

Emily Koyama posting a non-responsive comment without substance.... again.

Should we put Ms. Koyama down as another Trumper who believes that one's physical stature a good indicator of someone's worth as a person? No, of course not, but it would be great if Trumpers like Ms. Koyama would contribute comments of substance to the discussion.

Though some critics would maintain that the Right no longer has any substance to contribute.

Thanks.

Mike Johnson

This well documented and researched mental condition does exist.......https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon_complex

Emily Koyama

Need "substance"? Read your own posts.

And as for your commentary "substance", it seems that a significant percentage of your posts are dedicated to juvenile name calling of the President, his supporters, and others with political views that differ from yours.

Try taking some of your own advice.

Oh, and please stop with the condescending, fake "thanks" at the end of your posts, that follow the usual smears....if you can't have some integrity, say nothing at all.

Jim Klukkert

Thanks Emily, for your snarky rants, which expose the bankruptcy of your positions.

Be a cold day in the Devil's home before I take your advice or accept your assessments.

See you at the rout of your Insult Hurling Juvenile-In-Chief in November.

Thanks!

Barry Rabkin

Regardless of the name-calling and scorn you place on our Governor, she is NOT a tyrant, a dictator, or a queen. She is a duly elected governor and she has 'in her pocket' the legal authority to enforce her Public Health Orders. I am beyond thankful that her focus is on saving lives and ensuring that our healthcare system is not overwhelmed. And yes, I realize that businesses will be hurt or have to file Chapter 11 or actually go extinct. Human lives are more important. Oh, she will be handily re-elected. I doubt I am the only registered Republican that will 'cross the aisle' to vote for her. (And no, I didn't vote for Trump in 2016 - first time in my life that I didn't vote for a Republican for POTUS. I have no intention of voting for him in 2020. )

Red Eagle

Your comments are totally on the mark, couldn’t have said it any better myself!

Stefanie Beninato

I guess you are ignorant of the funds the state is making available for small businesses and that the DWS although slow at the start has done an amazing job of getting out UI benefits. Please stop your ranting and your physical putdowns of another woman. It is discouraging to see a woman wanting to be one of the boys by making remarks about a woman's physical description

Ted Nugent

"Bargsten said he and his partner have had to retain legal counsel to help them fight the penalty through an administrative process, adding that paying the fine could cripple the business. Arroyo Vino employs 15 people." Mr. Bargsten, there is always Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Red Eagle

A typical solution of a Democrat. Someone always pays even in bankruptcy filing, do your homework before making a statement. Bankruptcy just pushes the lose down the line.

Ted Nugent

MLG, you go girlfriend!

Jim Klukkert

This is so simple. To paraphrase conservative/libertarian and former NM Governor Gary Johnson, 'Do the Crime, Pay the Fine!'

These idiots, along with the Idiot in Chief of No Leadership, along with the nay sayers on these pages and elsewhere, have cost lives, livelihoods and our children's education.

See you all in November. Tic Tic Mutha Trump!

Ted Nugent

[beam]

Pam Walker

Our little dictator got her way again.

Jim Klukkert

Pam Walker- Does your comment 'little dictator' indicate that you agree with Judith Senda [The Tiny Tyrant] that physical stature has anything to do with the worth of a person.

In these difficult times when the world cries out for solutions, it just might be good if our discourse was elevated a tad above school yard epithets.

Thank you, Pam.

Red Eagle

Pretty much

Ed Li

The longer these morons want to defy restrictions and guidelines, the longer the restrictions and virus are going to stick around. Get your collective heads out of your behinds and accept it so that at one point in the future we can all be out safely again.

David Ford

You're right Ed. Sadly you are preaching to the "I don't care about anybody but trump" crowd, certainly not their fellow citizens. The two Bobbies here are notorious for their incomplete sentences and simpleton comments that add nothing here except to expose what is clearly their own miserable lives, trapped in a realm of hypocrisy that they cannot explain or justify. No doubt it perplexes them to no end.

You want a real example of the abuse of power? Look no further than their dear leader and his personal legal office, the Department of Justice (oxymoron as it is)....

And these same morons probably wear seat belts, stop at red lights, you know, for the greater good and not just to keep their insurance rates low.

Craig Meyer

Sadly, most of the R regulars here in the New Mexican commentariat are systemically incapable of the extraction you suggest. Nice try though. Deranged about Trump indeed.

Ted Nugent

[smile]

Mike Johnson

What happened, I thought Mike Vigil recused himself, now he is authoring the opinion? Obviously the fix was in, and MLG's political vindictiveness and revenge will continue.....

Carolyn DM

LMAO!! "...MLG's political vindictiveness and revenge", against who and what? What exactly is vindictive, political or vengeful about keeping NM's case numbers at some of the lowest in the country? Seriously, what is it that you ignorants on the Right have against integrity, or is it that you have so little of it in your own lives that you just can't grasp it? Let's guess!! You believe the squatter in the White House when he says, "the virus is very well under control in this country". It's a good thing you dropped the pseudo-"Dr.", from your name, Mr. Johnson. Now you only look half as foolish.

Mike Johnson

"...NM's case numbers at some of the lowest in the country." Indeed? Have you looked at the data lately? If you look at cases per 1,000,000 people, NM, at 10,777, is about 25th best, with states like Oklahoma, Kansas, West Virginia, and North Dakota doing much better. And deaths per 1,000,000 people, NM is in the highest quartile at 314, with states like Texas, California, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas doing much, much better, some of those at less than 1/2 the NM per-capita deaths. You really need to educate yourself and stop believing only the propaganda and lies by MLG and this newspaper.

Jim Klukkert

Mike, you are pretty good with statistics, but there’s lies, there’s darn lies, and there’s statistics.

My first question, do your numbers reflect a ‘discount’ for the grim numbers out of Dine country, where 30-40% of folks lack running water, and marginal quality health care is miles away over bad roads. According to KQRE-TV on 19 May, the Navajo Nation had the country’s highest per capita infection rate. According to KOB-TV on 10 July, ‘the Navajo Nation has reported more than 8,000 cases.’ If all of those are in NM, that would account for over 37% of the 21,340 NM cases reported today in the New York Times. So how hard are numbers that include this unique and impoverished population? Not very, though clearly more research would help settle this issue.


My second question: a quick review of New York Times numbers today shows only one state, West Virginia, having a significantly lower rate at 393/100,000 people, vs NM’s 1018/100,000 people. The three other states you cite have similar rates of cases/100,000 people: Kansas at 1004, Oklahoma at 997 and North Dakota at 910.

My third question: a USA Today ranking published 31 July ranks NM as #30. What impact on our Covid inventions results from our physical proximity to Texas, #19; Arizona, #2; and Louisiana, #1?

So lots to ponder, way above our pay grades. So I have to trust the best Medical Practices and Public Health Authorites, and obey the Law.

Anything less invites Anarchy, right Mike? Looting, tearing down statutes and so on.

Do the Crime, Pay the Fine!

Thanks.

Ted Nugent

[offtopic]

Mike Johnson

Thank you Mr. Klukkert, after so many years in college, and having taken many statistics and probability courses and used this knowledge frequently and effectively in my Masters thesis and Ph.D dissertations and research, I am quite familiar with the subject. And yes, statistics can be used to shed light on many issues, but you need to ask and answer the correct question with them or they can be "lies", or misleading as I would phrase it. So if you say in the last 2 weeks, has NM done better than most at lower cases per capita, the answer is yes, if you say NM has done better over the course of the pandemic on cases per capita or deaths than most, the answer is no. And of course, statistics cannot be used to determine causation of phenomena, as in saying higher cases in NM are due to being close to Texas, Arizona, etc., that is pure speculation without any scientific basis.

Jim Klukkert

Hey Mike, my sincere thanks for getting back with a reply to my questions.

A SFNM article that I missed yesterday before writing my reply to your statistics post was: ‘Native Americans dying at much higher rate from COVID-19’

This piece reports that ‘In mid-April through early May, nearly 60 percent of the state’s cases were Native Americans. That figure had dropped to 36 percent as of Tuesday, according to state data.’

That would indicate that aside from the COVID-19 ravaged Native American population, this would leave the rate per 100,000 for non-Native Americans here in NM at about 652 per 100,000, a low figure for which the Governor and her team should be proud.

That rate would put New Mexico at #40 nationally, between Missouri and Kentucky.

Perhaps we should be saluting Lujan-Grisham and her team, rather than disparaging those efforts.

So again, lots to ponder, way above our pay grades. So I have to trust the best Medical Practices and Public Health Authorities, and obey the Law.

Thanks again, Mike.

Mike Johnson

Yes, Mr. Klukkert, I am aware of the disparity among some Native American populations in the COVID death stats. I say some, because there are some places, like California, who has 5X the number of Native Americans as NM does, where the disparity is not statistically significant in deaths. But since Native Americans and Blacks suffer from the highest death rates in numerous diseases, heart disease, diabetes, etc., this certainly follows the pattern due to many factors.

BOB SCHWARTZ

exactly, so blatant a cave man could see it Mark Shea Dumb as rocks

Bill Cass

C'mon folks, it's simple. You can protest en masse, but you can't go to church, the store or any other place where you are a large group. Makes perfect sense.

Carolyn DM

Most people have continued going to stores since day one. Have you been in a coma for the last four months?

Bill Cass

Carolyn no reason to be snarky. I am in favor of restrictions, as long as they are uniform. They aren't.

Ted Nugent

[ban]

BOB SCHWARTZ

Remember, its about POWER , that's its nothing else

Carolyn DM

It's actually about doing what's right for the people of this state. What exactly is your problem with that. "POWER", is Mr. Trump not having dealt with the pandemic for the first almost three months that he knew about it while he was clown show rallying and riding in his golf buggy, because he was afraid the numbers would make him look bad and tank the stock market and the economy. LOL!! Well look how that's worked out for the buffoon!

Robert Bartlett

Hate has rendered your mind incapable of reason.

BOB SCHWARTZ

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHH GO HUG A TREE in Portland, OR

Red Eagle

[thumbup]

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