An Alamance County Superior Court judge granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) that forbids Ace Speedway in Altamahaw from holding races with spectators in the stands.
Judge Thomas Lambeth, who was appointed Superior Court judge by Gov. Roy Cooper in 2017, granted the TRO requested by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) at a hearing held in the Alamance County Board of Commissioners meeting room on Thursday, June 11.
Lambeth ran unopposed for election in 2018 and is the senior Alamance County Superior Court judge.
Ace Speedway has held three races with thousands of people in attendance at each race that the state maintains were in violation of Cooper’s Executive Order 141, which began Phase 2 of the reopening process.
Attorney Chuck Kitchen, representing the operators of Ace Speedway, claimed that Ace Speedway was being singled out because one of the owners spoke out against the executive order.
Kitchen said that other racetracks in North Carolina were operating with spectators and were not being closed down by the state.
Kitchen also noted that his clients who operate Ace Speedway had not been property notified of the state’s request for a TRO, but that Ace Speedway Limited, which has nothing to do with the operation of Ace Speedway, had been notified.
NCDHHS attorney Andrew Kasper said that the state had sent notices and emails to the entities that they believed ran the speedway and noted that Kitchen was in court representing the owners.
Kasper also noted that the Charlotte Motor Speedway had held races without spectators in compliance with Executive Order 141 and that other race tracks in the state had also worked out ways to hold races in compliance with the executive order.
Kitchen countered that Ace Speedway could not afford to hold races without spectators. He said that Charlotte Motor Speedway had not complied with Executive Order 141 and that the TRO being sought against his client was selective enforcement.
Lambeth in his comments noted that Secretary of the NCDHHS Dr. Mandy Cohen had made it “very clear that there is an imminent health hazard in our state and in our country.”
He noted that there was a “very delicate balancing act” between the health crisis and people earning a living.
Lambeth said, “The appropriate ruling is that I’m going to grant the temporary restraining order until we can have another hearing.”
Lambeth set that hearing for Friday, June 19 in the same room because the hearing was live streamed and he said the commissioners meeting room was the only meeting room available that was big enough for social distancing and set up for live streaming.