June 21, 2020
Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, Camden County will have to continue to keep its doors shut after its civil lawsuit against the state was dismissed by a New Jersey federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler sided with the state in the case of Atilis Gym Bellmawr LLC v. Murphy et al., as he refused to grant an injunction for the gym to reopen, according to Law360.
Kugler said that he did not want to keep New Jersey from enforcing its statewide COVID-19 restrictions because it could lead to a spike in cases and have “terrible consequences for society.”
The judge also rejected the gym’s argument that the state’s coronavirus restrictions favor certain businesses over others, as he said that some businesses have advantages over others in a capitalist system.
Kugler also said that the legal battle over the gym’s constitutional right to operate in defiance of New Jersey belongs in state court, given that both the summonses and civil action taken against the gym by New Jersey have happened in state court. The judge said that the gym’s legal team should’ve argued their case in the form of a state court appeal rather than in federal court.
Attorneys representing Atilis Gym owners Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti said that they brought the case in federal court, rather than in state court, because they thought the judge would remain neutral.
The lawsuit named New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, and State Police Superintendent Col. Pat Callahan.
Atilis Gym’s legal team argued that gyms have been arbitrarily excluded from the businesses that have been permitted to reopen across New Jersey as the state begins its restart and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
They also argued for the gym’s ability to reopen because of the capacity and space it had to implement health and safety protocols, such as social distancing, to mitigate the spread of the virus.
The state’s executive orders violated federal civil rights, as well as the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fifth and 14th Amendments, the attorneys said. Atilis Gym's legal team also warned of the permanent economic damage of the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
Meanwhile, the state argued that the federal lawsuit had no basis for making such a call over the gym reopening given that the claims arose from state court and had to be handled accordingly.
The facility's attorneys, who filed the lawsuit against the state last month, said that they will now file an appeal in state court.
The Camden County-based gym repeatedly defied Murphy's executive order over what businesses were permitted to operate by opening three days in a row last month, until it was ultimately shut down by state health officials.
Murphy has not said yet when gyms and health clubs could reopen, but it could be soon. It would depend upon the state’s COVID-19 testing and contact tracing capacities, as well as the continued improvement of public health indicators like the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.