Court recommends dismissing bar owner’s claims that public health emergency measures violate the Constitution

January 21, 2021 – Tamunung, Guam- United States Magistrate Judge Michael J. Bordallo recommended the dismissal of the Shady Lady’s owner Thomas Peinhopf lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the government of Guam’s public health measures. Peinhopf sought to block the government of Guam from implementing measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of bars, taverns, and other places where data showed an increased risk of spread. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) moved to dismiss the case.

The court agreed, concluding that Peinhopf’s Complaint failed to show that the public health measures constituted a taking of his property or violated his due process rights, and finding that the government “took the actions they did to address the current public health emergency. These government directives were aimed at flattening the curve, slowing the spread of COVID-19 and preventing the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.”

The court also rejected the argument that allowing grocery stores and hardware stores to remain open while still limiting the operation of businesses such as bars did not violate the Equal Protection Clause, holding that Peinhopf failed to show “that the classifications at issue here were drawn on any basis other than the risk posed to the public health. Rather, the exhibits to the Complaint appear to demonstrate that the [government’s]’ enacted measures were rationally based on a legitimate public health interest.”

Finally, Magistrate Judge Bordallo recommended that Peinhopf’s claim for monetary damages be dismissed but that he be given an opportunity to amend his complaint to properly plead his constitutional claims.

The parties have 14 days to file objections to Magistrate Judge Bordallo’s Report and Recommendation. The Chief Judge then decides whether to accept, reject, or modify the recommendation.

Assistant Attorney General Robert M. Weinberg is handling the matter for the OAG. Read the Report and Recommendation here.