AMHERST, N.Y. — HoganWillig Attorneys at Law voluntarily withdrew two lawsuits it had just filed Friday in order to refile them.
One called for New York to restore normal closing hours, instead of the current 10 p.m. restrictions, for the bars and restaurants the firm represents. The second argued youth hockey should be allowed to resume.
"On Monday, we found out that the state legally moved both cases to federal court because we had the federal Constitution brought in as a number of arguments," partner Corey Hogan said.
Hogan suspected there are two main reasons the state wanted the cases moved from state Supreme Courts. First he said federal cases take longer to resolve.
He also believed the state was unhappy with a recent string of favorable decisions from state Supreme Court justices for petitioners challenging COVID-19 restrictions.
In order to get the cases back in front of a state judge, the attorney removed the federal Constitutional arguments from both petitions. The restaurant petition was re-filed before 5 p.m. Tuesday.
"I think the federal Constitution is also being pretty significantly abused and mishandled and kind of ignored but for our purposes, we're comfortable in going in and arguing the state restrictions, there are no basis for them," Hogan said.
The bar and restaurant suit is a joint submission for establishments represented by both HoganWillig and attorney Paul Cambria. Republican state Senator Pat Gallivan is also a petitioner in the suit.
The re-filed document includes one other change. Beyond ending the 10 p.m. closure rule, the petitioners are also asking the judge to allow as many as 10 people at a table instead of four.
Hogan said both restrictions are "arbitrary and capricious." Gov. Andrew Cuomo hinted this week he may announce Wednesday the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Western New York, but Hogan said the suit will remain regardless.
"I think the problem with whatever the governor gives is he can take away at a moment's notice and it's impossible to run a business not knowing what they're doing tomorrow," he said.
The firm is also moving forward with the youth hockey lawsuit even though the governor said last week that hockey and nine other sports deemed "high risk" could resume February 1. Hogan said there are a number of restrictions that remain that will make things like travel teams difficult anyway and the full ban could be restored at any time.
HoganWillig plans to put forward a petition for the other nine "high risk" sports by the end of the week. Hogan said it is important these cases be heard in court so the state is forced to show the basis for implementing and enforcing COVID-19 restrictions.