A group of nine Maine businesses filed suit Friday against Gov. Janet Mills in a bid to force the state to loosen economic restrictions that have forced them to shut down as part of an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The lawsuit asks a U.S. District Court to rule that Mills’ executive orders restricting business activity are unconstitutional and to bar her from issuing similar ones in the future.

The attorney for the businesses, Steve Smith of Bangor, said in a prepared statement that Mills’ regulations, which were revised Friday, “are arbitrary and capricious” and “favor big businesses over Maine’s lifeblood: its small businesses.”

The owner of the Spillover Inn in Eustis is among the nine business owners suing Gov. Janet Mills for allegedly violating the Constitution by restricting commerce in her efforts to control a deadly new coronavirus. Submitted photo

Attorney General Aaron Frey said in response to the suit Friday that “the executive orders and the restarting plan at issue in this lawsuit were carefully crafted and have been reviewed and updated in order to protect Mainers’ health during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will represent the governor and will vigorously defend the constitutionality” of Mills’ actions and her authority to protect public health.

Among the plaintiffs in the case is Lee Ann DelCourt, owner of the Spillover Motel and Inn and Spillover Kitchen, both in Franklin County. She alleges the governor’s order has already cost $100,000 in revenue.

Five of the other businesses that filed suit are from Cumberland County. There are also establishments from Waldo, Hancock and Washington counties.

They include a construction company, a wedding disc jockey, an antiques dealer, a tour operator, a hair salon operator, a securities consultant and a surgeon.

Smith argues in the suit that Mills’ action in issuing a series of orders aimed at thwarting the spread of a new coronavirus “have closed down Maine civil society, effectively placed 1.2 million people under house arrest and taken jobs away from hundreds of thousands of people, all without due process of law.”

It also charged that she “directly and palpably interfered with interstate commerce” by ordering anyone entering Maine to undergo a 14-day quarantine “regardless of whether they have any illness.”

One of the many problems dealing with COVID-19 is that many of the people who have been exposed to it, and could pass it on to others, don’t exhibit any symptoms, according to health experts.

Mills’ orders are similar to ones issued by other New England governors and are in keeping with the guidelines prepared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other federal experts. They are generally adhering to standards advocated by the federal government to deal with the pandemic.

Lisbon businessman Dale Crafts, a Republican running for the U.S. House in the 2nd Congressional District, initially planned to be one of the plaintiffs in the case.

He said in a Facebook video Thursday evening that Mills’ shutdown was making things “worse than the virus,” which has killed more than 75,000 people in the country in the past two months.

Crafts said Friday, though, that he did not want “history to show that this was a partisan political score,” but rather “a challenge to the power of the executive branch.”

Crafts said it was about “getting Maine back to work” and shouldn’t be partisan or politicized.

On Wednesday, Mills, a Democrat, announced the formation of a 37-member state Economic Recovery Committee to offer guidance on how Maine can minimize the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It includes Maine health experts, business owners, education leaders, and city and state officials.

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