Hughes v. Northam

admin Circuit Court of Russell County Virginia, Constitutional Law

On April 8, 2020, we learned that an individual had challenged Virginia Governor Northam’s Executive Order banning meetings — including Church Services — so that he could go to church on Easter without fear of being charged.  The case was filed in Virginia Circuit Court in Russell County, in far Southwest Virginia.  Since the petition included a claim under the First Amendment, the Governor had the option to “remove” the case to federal court, which he did — apparently not trusting Virginia judges to make a decision.  Then the plaintiff re-filed the case in state court without the U.S.  constitutional claim, and the case proceeded in state court.  The Governor’s response badly misrepresented Justice Scalia’s holding in Employment Division v. Smith (1990).  Overnight we put together an amicus brief for CLDEF to file explaining the flaws in the Governor’s arguments — the only such brief to support him.  On the other side was the left-wing Americans United, who filed the only brief for the Governor.  The case was heard at 1:30 pm on April 9, 2020, and sadly, the judge denied relief to Mr. Hughes.

CLDEF Amicus Brief supporting Challenge
Petition for Declaratory Judgment
Governor’s Response
Affidavit of Comm. Pub. Health
Amicus Brief of Americans United for Separation of Church & State