Newport Beach councilman files lawsuit against Gov. Newsom over O.C. beach battle, as city awaits approval for reopening plans

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Huntington Beach, California is virtually empty on May 2, 2020.(APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

Huntington Beach, California is virtually empty on May 2, 2020.(APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

Former Newport Beach mayor and current councilman Kevin Muldoon filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state leaders Monday, over the constitutionality of state-mandated closures of Orange County beaches aimed at curbing spread of COVID-19.

The lawsuit comes as two O.C. cities were granted permission to partially reopen their beaches Monday after receiving approval for safety plans they submitted to the state. Newport Beach also submitted plans to the state on Friday and was waiting for a response, according to city spokesperson John Pope.

In a news briefing Monday, Newsom said the state was working with other cities in the county to reopen their beaches too.

Muldoon filed the lawsuit as a private citizen, and not in his official capacity as a councilman, Pope said.

Newsom ordered the countywide shutdown of shores on April 30 after an estimated 40,000 people flocked to Newport Beach the previous weekend, defying the state’s stay-at-home order and making national headlines.

“The Governor’s actions appear to be based more on politics applied to one county in California, rather than sound scientific guidance, evidence, or regard for competing Constitutional concerns,” Muldoon said in a written statement. “Freedom of movement and access to California beaches are fundamental rights, and unless total or broad interference with those can be proven by the government to be necessary and also related to fulfilling a compelling government interest, this interference is unconstitutional.”

The lawsuit asks U.S. Attorney General William Barr to intervene in the battle against Newsom’s order to close down O.C. beaches, after Barr issued a memorandum on April 27, asking for state directives that could be violating the constitutional rights of citizens to be sent his way.

Many O.C. officials also expressed criticism towards to governor’s order. O.C. Supervisor Michelle Steel called the governor’s actions “arbitrary” and said it was an act of retribution against the county. Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta called it an “unconstitutional overreach.”

The Newport Beach City Council voted on May 2 to support legal action against the state, filed by the cities of Huntington Beach and Dana Point, after voting on April 28 to keep their beaches open “in a safe manner.” In the meantime, however, the cities closed their beaches.

“Of course we want people to be responsible and practice social distancing, and be good neighbors, but we see other beaches opening up around the state and we think now is not the time to close down beaches,” Councilmember Kevin Muldoon said during the April 28 council meeting.

Thousands took to the streets of Huntington Beach Friday to protest the state’s stay-at-home order, and smaller demonstrations continued throughout the weekend in Orange County.

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