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Oregon Supreme Court Orders Decision From Baker Co. Judge On COVID-19 Restrictions

The Oregon Supreme Court in Salem, Ore., on Sept. 26, 2019.
The Oregon Supreme Court in Salem, Ore., on Sept. 26, 2019.

A Baker County judge has until 5 p.m. Tuesday to address a ruling he made against Gov. Kate Brown’s coronavirus restrictions.

It’s been a week since Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff halted several of Brown’s emergency orders.

A lot has happened since then – the Oregon Supreme Court let the governor’s orders remain, and over the weekend the high court issued Shirtcliff an Alternative Writ of Mandamus. The judge has three options: he can vacate his own ruling, explain his decision, or do nothing.

“They chose a middle ground,” said attorney Kevin Mannix, referring to the members of the Oregon Supreme Court.

Mannix represents 11 intervenors in the case – the group includes business owners, churchgoers, and officials in Grant and Baker counties who say the emergency orders are affecting their lives.

Several churches are leading the case against Brown. The case argues that she doesn’t have the authority to issue an executive order that lasts longer than a month.

The governor’s counsel holds that the orders are legal under Oregon law.

Mannix said his clients understand the need for government to deal with a public health emergency, but disagree with criminal charges against people who violate the orders.

Saturday, the Oregon Supreme Court also approved the Oregon Nurses Association to appear and file documents in support of the governor’s office.

If the case remains, the state has to file its opening briefs by Thursday, with plaintiff and intervenor responses submitted by Tuesday, June 2.

“I’d say it’s a 50-50 proposition – I think neither the state nor the plantiffs or us as intervenors won with that ruling,” Mannix said.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Elizabeth Miller is a JPR content partner from Oregon Public Broadcasting. Elizabeth is an Ohio native and a graduate of Baldwin Wallace University.