SLO County considering suing California over stay-at-home order


San Luis Obispo County is considering suing the state of California in an attempt to break away from the Southern California region and emerge from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order, though the county’s top attorney is cautioning against doing so. 

On Tuesday, the SLO County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to explore the possibility of lawsuit against the state. 

During the board meeting, Supervisor John Peschong raised the possibility of following the lead of San Bernardino County, which sued the state last month in an attempt to exit the Southern California region and assume local control over its coronavirus response. Peschong said he expects the stay-at-home order to go on for months, and he would like for SLO County to explore the possibility of a lawsuit.

“Right now what I’m finding is our small businesses are suffering,” Peschong said.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson objected to Peschong’s proposal, arguing the county would have almost no chance at succeeding in court against the state. Gibson said suing the state would be a “frivolous attempt to voice our frustration.”

Gibson and Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg cast the dissenting votes after Peschong put forth a motion to explore the possibility of a lawsuit. 

County Counsel Rita Neal said such a successful lawsuit would require proving Newsom abused his discretion in placing SLO County in the Southern California region. 

“Being able to show there was an abuse of discretion by the governor is, I think, a very, very difficult hurdle to overcome,” Neal said.

Neal said courts have ruled that officials have broad authority to issue public health orders to slow the spread of a contagious disease. 

SLO County previously petitioned the state to exit the Southern California Region and join Santa Barbara and Ventura counties in a new Central Coast region. But, Newsom has stated he is not considering relieving any counties from stay-at-home orders, Neal said.