July 3, 2020

Merita Kraja’s American dream was in jeopardy. After escaping communism in Albania 30 years ago, she came to the United States, became a citizen, and opened a small business—Euro Pizza Café in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Her restaurant thrived for two decades, but then local law enforcement unfairly targeted her amid the COVID-19 crisis. But thanks to the Goldwater Institute’s American Freedom Network, Merita’s dream is still a reality just in time for Independence Day.

Merita’s nightmare began in May when local law enforcement accused her of violating Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s executive order that limited on-site dining as a measure to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. But Merita did everything to comply with the order, including blocking off her restaurant’s patio and indoor seating, so customers wouldn’t eat their food onsite.

Although Merita followed all the rules for her business, some Euro Pizza patrons stopped in public spaces outside her restaurant to eat their food. But rather than holding those individuals accountable, city officials and law enforcement officers came after Merita, charging her with a crime for not policing public spaces. 

Fortunately, the Goldwater Institute’s American Freedom Network—a national network of volunteer attorneys in all 50 states who defend Americans’ constitutional rights—was there to help Merita. Thanks to its efforts, charges against Merita have been dropped, bringing an end to the case and, hopefully, an end to this type of abuse of power by the city. 

Marc Victor and Howard Dworman of Attorneys for Freedom Law Firm—both members of Goldwater’s American Freedom Network—defended Merita against the unfair charges. “Law enforcement should not have singled out Merita and then burdened her with a criminal charge, especially during an unprecedented event like a pandemic,” Dworman said. 

“Citizens around the country are often mistreated by municipalities, who assume they won’t fight back,” Victor added. “It is a privilege to represent a brave client who won’t concede defeat and is willing to take a stand for her freedoms and others’.” 

“Attorneys in the American Freedom Network are providing critical assistance to individuals in cities all over the country whose rights have been violated by the government. Their work is more important than ever, right now,” said Goldwater Institute Director of National Litigation Jon Riches.  

If you are an attorney interested in participating in the American Freedom Network, you can find more information here. If you’re a citizen who needs help defending your rights, you can find more information here.

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