Oregon Supreme Court orders judge to toss or explain ruling invalidating coronavirus restrictions

Oregon Supreme Court orders judge to toss or explain ruling invalidating coronavirus restrictions
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The Oregon Supreme Court ordered a judge Saturday to either toss or explain his ruling that invalidated Gov. Kate Brown’s (D) coronavirus restrictions in the state. 

The Oregon justices ruled Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff needed to withdraw his order or explain it further and give both sides the opportunity to make more arguments, The Associated Press reported. He has until Tuesday.

Shirtcliff decided last week that Brown overstepped her authority by shutting down in-person religious gatherings to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The judge sided with the 10 churches and other local elected officials and business owners who challenged the governor’s order. 

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“The governor’s orders are not required for public safety when plaintiffs can continue to utilize social distancing and safety protocols at larger gatherings involving spiritual worship,” he wrote, according to the AP. 

But his ruling also made many of her other restrictions, including a ban on public gatherings and a ban on nonessential businesses and in-person dining, no longer valid.

On the same day as Shirtcliff’s ruling, the state Supreme Court granted the state’s emergency motion to stay the lower court’s decision until further review of the state’s petition to dismiss the ruling.

Brown declared a state of emergency for Oregon because of the virus on March 8, followed by several executive orders that regulated schools and businesses. Earlier in May, Brown announced the order would extend until at least July 6, but all except one county have been approved to begin reopening. 

Brown’s office did not immediately return a request for comment. 

Other state courts have been dealing with challenges to the governors’ stay-at-home orders, including in Wisconsin, where the state Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ order last week.

Oregon has counted at least 3,927 cases of coronavirus, leading to at least 148 deaths, according to data from the state’s health department.