The U.S. Department of Justice has thrown its weight behind a federal lawsuit seeking to strike down Maine’s 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors.

The owners of two campgrounds and two restaurants sued Maine Gov. Janet Mills over that rule earlier this month. Two New Hampshire residents who want to camp in Maine also joined the complaint. Theirs is one of three separate federal lawsuits over various aspects of the governor’s reopening plan. In this case, the plaintiffs argue that the quarantine requirement is an unconstitutional restriction on people’s right to travel freely from state to state.

The Department of Justice echoed that position in brief filed in the case Friday.

“Here, Maine likely has transgressed the Constitution’s limits by discriminating between Maine residents and out-of-state residents with respect to the ability to patronize campgrounds and RV parks within the State,” the brief says. “Residents from outside Maine must self-quarantine for 14 days before they can enjoy these facilities, while Mainers who have not ventured outside the State may frequent them at any time.”

The case is still moving through federal court, and the parties have been trading briefs for two weeks.

The plaintiffs are Bayley’s Camping Resort in Scarborough and Little Ossipee Lake Campground in Waterboro, as well as the owner of two restaurants patronized primarily by those staying at Bayley’s. They have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, which would block Mills from implementing her reopening plan while the lawsuit moves forward.

The Department of Justice said the governor could be less restrictive while still protecting public health.

“It is unclear why the Governor requires every out-of-state resident to self-quarantine for 14 days before patronizing plaintiffs’ campgrounds,” the brief says. “Had Maine imposed such a burden only on residents from COVID-19 hot spots, such as New York City, this might be a different case. But Maine requires travelers from every corner of the Union to quarantine themselves upon arrival, even if they hail from jurisdictions (such as nearby Vermont) that have fewer confirmed cases of COVID-19—either as an absolute matter or per capita—than Maine does.”

The Maine Attorney General’s Office filed a brief earlier this month on behalf of the state. It emphasized the swell of visitors that come to Maine every summer and said the order does not ban travel into or from the state.

“Maine has a population of just 1.3 million residents,” the state argues. “Last summer there were 22.1 million non-resident visits, with over half of those visits coming from states where infection rates are much higher than in Maine. Recognizing the need to control the virus and protect our residents, Maine’s Governor, through a carefully calibrated process and in close consultation with government officials and public health experts, has issued a series of Executive Orders pursuant to her authority under state law.”

The state’s response also included supporting affidavits from the head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the governor’s chief legal counsel.

“Moreover, at the time the quarantine requirement was issued, and continuing to this day, nearby states, including Massachusetts and New York, had much higher infection rates than Maine’s,” Dr. Nirav Shah wrote. “Our concern was that people in those states would travel to Maine and unknowingly infect people here, thus further increasing the spread of the virus and the number of COVID-19 cases in Maine. Under that scenario, the capacity of Maine’s existing health care system to provide care for individual patients could potentially be exceeded.”

U.S. District Judge Lance Walker has not yet ruled in the case.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: