The Bandimere Speedway and its owners have again sued Gov. Jared Polis and the Jefferson County Department of Public Health over pandemic-era restrictions on a July 2020 event there.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court Tuesday, is the Morrison racetrack’s second attempt at suing government officials for enforcing public health orders that restricted Bandimere’s events. A lawsuit filed in Jefferson County District Court in 2020 was dismissed but an appeal is ongoing.
“This is a constitutional lawsuit,” John Bandimere III, a member of the racetrack’s executive team, said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s a lawsuit about the fact that they should have never done this to small businesses and to the public and that it should never happen again.”
In the federal lawsuit, the speedway and its owners, Lorraine and John Bandimere Jr., are suing the governor; Mark Johnson, the former executive director of the Jefferson County Public Health Department; and Johnson’s successors. The agency is currently without an executive director.
“Johnson’s enforcement of Jefferson County’s public health laws was weaponized against Mr. and Mrs. Bandimere and caused the deprivations of their fundamental rights,” the lawsuit states.
The Bandimeres and their racetrack are represented by Randy Corporon, an Aurora lawyer, conservative talk radio host and Republican National Committee member.
Conor Cahill, a spokesman for Polis, declined to comment on the pending litigation. Noella Rios, a spokeswoman for Jefferson County Public Health, also declined to comment Wednesday.
When Polis and JCPH successfully defended against the Bandimeres’ lawsuit in state court last year, they argued that they were forced to make “extremely difficult, often unpopular, decisions” to prevent overwhelming hospitals but that all of those decisions were constitutional.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020 ruled in favor of a northern Colorado church that sued Polis over capacity limits on religious gatherings.
In their new lawsuit, the Bandimeres allege Polis and JCPH violated their 1st and 14th Amendment rights when they tried to prohibit the racetrack from hosting its “Fourth of July God and Country Rally” in the summer of 2020, then suspended its liquor license and sued the Bandimeres.
They allege that Polis enacted unconstitutional public health orders and that Johnson, the public health director, then used them against the speedway because John Bandimere Jr. criticized the orders in a radio interview. To date, no state court has determined the orders were unconstitutional.
“They do not constitute, beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights,” Jefferson County District Court Judge Tamara Russell wrote of the public health orders on Dec. 5, 2021, while dismissing the Bandimeres’ initial lawsuit.
The federal lawsuit claims the Fourth of July God and Country Rally in 2020 was simultaneously a professional racing event, a religious event and a political rally — “the largest pro-God, pro-country rally for America in the state of Colorado.” Because other professional sports were allowed to continue playing, racing at Bandimere should have too, according to the lawsuit.
“Johnson and Jefferson County Public Health’s regulatory scheme decimated Bandimere Speedway’s business by limiting outdoor events to no more than 175 individuals per designated activity with a minimum of six feet (of) distance between individuals,” the lawsuit states.
The Bandimeres are asking that U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Babcock award them and their racetrack an undisclosed amount of money in damages.
“In all honesty, this right now is not about damages. This is about the Constitution,” John Bandimere III said Wednesday. “You can go down that path, obviously, and there was a lot of revenue that was lost. But this is really, truly a constitutional thing.”