Oregon Supreme Court overrules judge's order halting coronavirus restrictions

Oregon Supreme Court overrules judge's order halting coronavirus restrictions
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The Oregon Supreme Court overruled a judge’s order stopping the governor’s statewide coronavirus restrictions late Monday.

State Supreme Court Presiding Justice Thomas Balmer granted the state’s emergency motion to hold the lower court’s injunction designating the state coronavirus restrictions “null and void,” Oregon Live reported. Balmer ruled the hold will remain in place until the higher court reviews the state’s petition to dismiss the lower judge’s ruling. 

The Supreme Court presiding justice instructed the plaintiffs to submit any responses for the court to consider by Friday and indicated no specific timeline for the decision.


"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,'' Gov. Kate Brown (D) said in a statement. ''From the beginning of this crisis, I have worked within my authority, using science and data as my guide, heeding the advice of medical experts.''

Earlier Monday, Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff declared Brown’s coronavirus restrictions as no longer valid after 10 churches and 21 individuals sued the governor. 

Shirtcliff ruled Monday that the order violated the plaintiff’s free exercise of religion, as he said places of worship could implement social distancing guidelines for their gatherings, like the ones used in grocery stores and other essential businesses. 

The state responded with an emergency order requesting the hold granted by Balmer, saying Shirtcliff overstepped his authority, and his legal argument was flawed, according to Oregon Live. 

Ray Hacke, an attorney for the Pacific Justice Institute that represents the churches, said he was “discouraged” by the state Supreme Court’s decision, according to Oregon Live.

“I think it defeats the whole point of the injunction, but that’s the call,” he said.