Judge rejects Mike Huckabee request for Florida beach access amid coronavirus
A federal judge in Florida on Monday shot down an emergency request from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and fellow beachfront property owners to be exempted from a public health order that cut off beach access during the pandemic.
Huckabee, the father of President Trump’s former White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, argued that a county ordinance blocking him from access to the Gulf of Mexico seafront behind his estimated $3.3 million home violated his constitutional rights.
U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson on Monday denied the request from Huckabee and more than a dozen other plaintiffs for an injunction against Walton County, Fla., and the local sheriff.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on April 1 put in place a 30-day stay-at-home order for the state, but did not close beaches. The next day, Walton County passed an ordinance that closed off beach access and made violators subject to criminal penalty until April 30.
The county said that measure was designed to address a recent uptick in the number of crowds gathering on its beaches, which threatened to spread the coronavirus.
Huckabee and other beachfront property owners sued several days later. They alleged that the county had unconstitutionally deprived them of their property without compensation, violated their due process rights and conducted unreasonable seizure of their private beach property.
“The County’s Amended Ordinance would force family members into a confined space within a house rather than allow them to social distance and recreate in their sandy backyard,” the complaint states. “Or it forces them to public locations to recreate potentially closer to many other persons that may have COVID-19.”
An attorney for the plaintiffs, D. Kent Safriet of the law firm Hopping Green & Sams, said the case is “fundamentally about government violating constitutional rights including the right to own property and the right to liberty.”
Florida has recorded some 21,000 coronavirus cases and 500 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Updated at 2:54 p.m.