CARSON CITY – Nevada has paid $175,000 to cover plaintiffs’ attorney fees in a lawsuit brought by a Dayton church last year that challenged an attendance limit on in-person worship services the state imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The payment to attorneys for Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, which brought its legal challenge in May 2020, came pursuant to a consent decree that ends the litigation.
The church’s case, citing violations of First Amendment protections on free speech and freedom of assembly, reached the U.S. Supreme Court last year. The court denied a request for an emergency injunction against the orders on a 5-4 vote.
But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later struck down the state’s church attendance cap, and sent the matter back to the District Court for reconsideration. That led to the consent decree, filed May 13.
The state Board of Examiners, composed of Gov. Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford, and Secretary of state Barbara Cegavske, approved the $175,000 payment without comment at the board’s June 8 meeting.
A staff memo recommending approval noted that the plaintiff “prevailed in this action” and that the fee had been negotiated down from $235,000.
A second similar lawsuit filed by another Calvary Chapel in Las Vegas is still pending with an amended complaint filed June 11. That complaint seeks injunctive relief against the state in spite of the June 1 lifting of state’s pandemic related restrictions, which now are up to individual counties to determine.
The amended complaint seeks to bar the state from enacting similar restrictions in the future.