Missouri judge rules county health orders tied to COVID-19 are illegal, must be lifted

Joplin Area Coronavirus

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri judge has ruled that local health orders imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state are illegal and should be lifted.

Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled that orders such as quarantines and business closures violate the Missouri Constitution’s separation of powers clause affecting the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

Green ordered that all existing health orders issued by local health authorities are “null and void.” His order reads:

This case is about whether Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services regulations can abolish representative government in the creation of public health laws, and whether it can authorize closure of a school or assembly based on the unfettered opinion of an unelected official. This court finds it cannot.

“We’re aware of the Court’s ruling and are prepared to enforce compliance with the court’s order across the state,” said Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed in 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when St. Louis city, St. Louis County, and other jurisdictions were issuing health mandates aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

Ben Brown, the owner of Satchmo’s Bar and Grill in Chesterfield, was among those involved in the lawsuit. Brown, who is running for a seat in the Senate, said in a statement that the orders were an example of “tyranny.”

“It is time for our businesses, schools, and residents to embrace the freedom that this decision provides,” said Brown. “It is time to make masks optional, end needless quarantines of Missouri’s children, and go back to living productive lives while allowing individuals the freedom to choose how and when they interact with others based on each person’s or family’s personal decisions.”

Brown told FOX 2 the ruling will also impact schools, and he believes parents should ultimately decide what’s best for their kids.

“It’s going to really come down to people’s personal health decisions,” Brown said.  “I think the people of Missouri are going to really benefit from it.”

County Executive Sam Page’s spokesman, Doug Moore, released a statement following the ruling, urging people to still follow masking and social distancing practices.

“We are aware of the recent court decision from Cole County,” said Moore. “St. Louis County is not a party to that lawsuit. The next hearing in the St. Louis County mask case is November 30.  We hope everyone will follow the masking and social distancing practices that public health experts recommend over the Thanksgiving holidays.”

Green’s ruling comes a day after Page expressed concern about the uptick in COVID-19 cases ahead of the holidays.

“If we can get through the holidays without a spike in cases, then we can begin conversations about relaxing the mask requirement,” Page told County Council members Monday. “We know across the country governments are taking this action; however, our numbers are simply too high to consider a move from required to recommended.”

Page suggested that the county mask ordinance stays in effect until after Jan. 1. He said he will review the ruling with the county counselor and their attorneys.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories