SALEM, OR (KPTV) – The Oregon Supreme Court has put a halt on a judge’s ruling that said Oregon’s stay-at-home orders were null and void.
Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff issued his opinion in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by 10 churches in Oregon arguing that the social-distancing directives were unconstitutional.
Shirtcliff said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s coronavirus restrictions, including her “Stay Home, Save Lives” order issued have expired.
“The language of that statute is precise, and the judge recognized and agreed with our argument that that 28-day time limit applies,” said Kevin Mannix, the attorney representing the plaintiffs.
Mannix says without convening the legislature and voting on it, the governor doesn’t have the power to extend that time. The judge agreed.
“It knocks out all of her stay at home orders essentially immediately,” said Oregon State associate professor of political science Rorie Solberg.
That is, unless the Oregon Supreme Court issues a stay, which the Oregon attorney general requested and was granted.
Solberg says it’s important to note what Monday’s ruling means.
“This violates my rights, or the governor doesn’t have this power, any governor can’t tell us x, y or z and that is not at all what is being said here, and I think that is really important and now getting lost,” she said.
According to Monday’s ruling, the governor has the power under two state laws and the state constitution to issue these stay at home orders.
There is the public health emergency law, which can be issued for 14 days and re-upped by the governor for another 14.
But after that, the legislature must approve. This is the state law the court says the governor’s order falls under.
The second law is the state of emergency, which the governor says her orders fall under, but it must meet certain requirements.
Finally, the state constitution gives the governor power for catastrophic events, but that is only for 30 days. It can be upped for another 30, but after that, lawmakers have to vote.
“So, the sole question is under which section were they issued, and is it one of the ones that has a time limit where she then needs additional support to continue it,” said Solberg.
Now, it will be up to the state Supreme Court to figure out if the lower court got it right, or if they will side with the governor’s office.
Gov. Brown’s office released a statement following the court’s ruling:
“Following swift action by the Oregon Supreme Court, my emergency orders to protect the health and safety of Oregonians will remain in effect statewide while the court hears arguments in this lawsuit,” the statement reads in part. “There are no shortcuts for us to return to life as it was before this pandemic. Moving too quickly could return Oregon to the early days of this crisis, when we braced ourselves for hospitals to be overfilled and ventilators in short supply.”
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The Supreme Court says there is no specific timeline for a decision once they take up the case.
Both sides now have until Friday to respond to the stay.
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