House of Pain wins another delay by taking St. Louis County’s lawsuit to federal court

House of Pain wins another delay by taking St. Louis County's lawsuit to federal court

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

The gyms that are staying open despite St. Louis County’s stay-at-home order have won another delay in the county’s lawsuit trying to force them to close.

At a Monday morning hearing, House of Pain Gym attorney Chris McDonough said that he filed a last-minute motion to take the case to federal court. It is the third time in three hearings in the case set since Wednesday that McDonough has delayed the county’s day in court with a last-minute motion.

In the hearing held by videoconferencing app Zoom, McDonough said that Circuit Judge Robert Heggie could not rule or take any action on the case now that the motion had been filed to take it to federal court.

“As soon as the removal notice is filed, which it has been with the federal court, under federal law the state court is completely divested of jurisdiction to do anything,” McDonough told the judge. “You have no jurisdiction in St. Louis County Circuit Court to do anything further at this point.”

After a recess of nearly an hour, Heggie returned and agreed with McDonough.

Assistant County Counselor Steven Capizzi said the federal court would rule in the county’s favor as it did May 8, but he said the case did not qualify for federal jurisdiction and called the tactic nothing more than a way to delay the case again.

“This is just delay, delay, delay and we are opposed to that motion,” Capizzi said.

He noted that a request for a hearing on a motion for a temporary restraining order usually takes place within 24 hours, but the county has waited seven days due to McDonough’s various motions.

“This case was needed as an emergency situation because of the public health crisis in St. Louis County,” Capizzi said. “We’re now on Day 7 that we have not had a hearing on a TRO that we filed.”

The case had been delayed since a hearing late Friday in which McDonough said he filed a motion an hour before the hearing noting that the county had filed suit against the wrong LLC associated with House of Pain. The technical business owner was not named, since the gym has multiple fictitious names filed with the state.

Heggie allowed the county to add the actual LLC to the case, but delayed the hearing to Monday morning.

At a Wednesday hearing set to happen with Circuit Judge John Lasater, McDonough said he had filed a last-minute motion for a change of judge. Then Heggie was assigned to the case.

In all three cases, the county and judges have questioned why McDonough waited until the last minute to make his motions when he knew about the hearings ahead of time.

“I’m disappointed if this was a strategic play,” Lasater said.