The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, September 01, 2021 1:00 am

Judge rules against Ceruti

Catering firm had sued over closure

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – A local catering company that sued Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Allen County Health Department over COVID-19 orders has lost its fight.

Allen Superior Judge Jennifer DeGroote dismissed the case last week at the request of the defendants.

Ceruti's Catering Inc. filed the 26-page lawsuit in March seeking a permanent injunction to prohibit the governor and health department from enforcing executive orders that began a year ago when the pandemic hit. Joe Ceruti also sought an unspecified amount of money for costs and expenses including attorneys' fees.

Ceruti claimed the initial state shutdown and other capacity restrictions essentially destroyed his business.

None of the restrictions still apply and DeGroote found the lawsuit moot. Ceruti argued the court can continue to hear a moot proceeding “when it is in the public interest to do so.” But DeGroote said that public interest exception only applies to appellate courts – not trial courts.

DeGroote also found the state's Emergency Management and Disaster Law is not an unconstitutional delegation of power. The law was written by the General Assembly and gives the governor wide powers in responding to emergencies including a pandemic.

“The provisions ... are not an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power because requiring the General Assembly to set forth every single possible emergency that could occur in Indiana would frustrate the statute's purpose to permit responses to unforeseen and rapidly evolving circumstances,” her ruling said.

DeGroote also noted the General Assembly retained the statutory authority to override and terminate the declaration made by the governor.

Ceruti also sued the Allen County Health Department. DeGroote said its actions “were not arbitrary, conscience-shocking or oppressive.”

She said the health department's orders were related to a permissible state objective and the department had a compelling interest in the health and general welfare of Allen County residents.

The case can be appealed.

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