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May 21, 2020

New Jersey GOP, small business owners sue Gov. Murphy over executive order on non-essential businesses

Lawsuits Business
GOP sues Phil Murphy Edwin J. Torres/New Jersey Office of the Governor

Gov. Phil Murphy is being sued by the New Jersey Republican Party and small business owners over restrictions placed on small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New Jersey Republican State Committee and a group of small business owners filed a lawsuit against Gov. Phil Murphy and members of his administration over the executive order that has closed non-essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit calls for businesses across the state to be permitted to reopen, and it was filed in state Superior Court in Cape May on Thursday, according to It also names Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and State Police Col. Pat Callahan as defendants.

The suit filed on behalf of non-essential businesses that have been forced to close and unemployed workers due to the economic toll of the coronavirus outbreak, New Jersey GOP officials said.

The plaintiffs claim Murphy "created arbitrary and capricious classes of employers and employees" and implemented "unconstitutional executive orders that deny millions of New Jerseyans equal protection under the law."

"Gov. Murphy has irreparably harmed New Jersey small businesses by arbitrarily declaring some essential and others non-essential," New Jersey Republican Party Chairman Doug Steinhardt said. "While mom and pop barbers, bars, brew pubs and retail shops are shuttered and struggling, big box stores, with big cash cushions, survive."

Murphy was dismissive when asked about the suit during Thursday's COVID-19 briefing. "They sued me?," he said. "As you can tell, I've spent a lot of time focused on this suit."

New Jersey has been consistent in its definition of essential and non-essential businesses, Murphy said. He reiterated that the process is based on data, science, facts, and health.

If public health indicators continue improving, more non-essential businesses could begin reopening soon, Murphy said.

Murphy ordered all non-essential businesses to shut down on March 21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as instituted a stay-at-home order and banned all gatherings across the state. 

As of Monday, all businesses across the state could conduct business using curbside pickup services. Customers aren't allowed inside retail stores and orders must be placed online or over the phone.

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