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New judge assigned to Flathead business lawsuits

by CHAD SOKOL
Daily Inter Lake | November 24, 2020 10:15 AM

A new judge will oversee lawsuits involving the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and five Flathead County businesses over COVID-19 masking and social-distancing requirements.

Flathead County District Judge Robert Allison was assigned to the case after DPHHS asked to replace Judge Dan Wilson on Friday. State law says each party is entitled to one substitution of a district judge.

DPHHS sued the businesses – Sykes Diner and Scotty's Bar in Kalispell, the Ferndale Market and Your Turn Mercantile near Bigfork, and the Remington Bar in Whitefish – in late October for allegedly flouting a July 15 public health order from Gov. Steve Bullock.

The businesses' attorneys have filed counterclaims and argued, in part, that the state failed to define what "reasonable efforts" to comply with Bullock's directive look like. Wilson declined to grant preliminary injunctions against the businesses on Nov. 12, and the businesses' attorneys opposed the state's motion to replace him on procedural grounds.

Reporter Chad Sokol can be reached at 758-4434 or csokol@dailyinterlake.com