Tesla has filed a lawsuit against Alameda County in California, where the company’s Fremont factory is based.
Tesla claims the county is abridging its constitutional rights by restricting its ability to operate in contravention of Governor Gavin Newsom’s statewide order allowing essential businesses to stay open.
Tesla’s shuttered its East Bay plant on March 23 pursuant to several public health orders issued by the county’s interim health officer, Dr. Erica Pan.
But Musk believes his company is exempt from closure because it manufactures electric vehicles and batteries, pointing to both Newsom’s order and the county’s own guidelines that make exceptions for critical infrastructure businesses.
Musk expressed his displeasure with the county in a tweet on Saturday, saying, “Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately. The unelected & ignorant “Interim Health Officer” of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!”
He threatened in a subsequent tweet to move operations out of California, and said whether Tesla retains any manufacturing in Fremont will depend on how the company is treated in the future.
The lawsuit claims the county violated Tesla’s Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection rights, and that its authority to impose restrictions on businesses is preempted by Newsom’s.
“Although the Governor’s order expressly permits the operation of the Tesla Factory, plaintiff has attempted in good faith to negotiate a settlement with Alameda County to allow its plant to reopen and begin producing critical federal infrastructure,” Tesla’s lawsuit says.
“Nevertheless, defendants continue to take the position that the Tesla Factory is not an ‘essential business’ under the third county order and therefore may not reopen, regardless of the express permission to do so in the Governor’s order.”
It adds that the county threatens violators with criminal penalties that it lacks the power to impose, saying, “Thus, Alameda County has not only created a legal quagmire by wrongly declaring that its own orders trump the state level orders, it has threatened jail time and significant fines for businesses and individuals that do not comply, even where they are clearly authorized by the state order to continue critical infrastructure activities.”
Tesla seeks a court injunction that would allow the factory to restart production.