This is the lawsuit filed by several plaintiffs in Jefferson Parish against John Bel Edwards over his mask mandate and bar shutdown, and it’s really a well-written, well-reasoned legal document.
It’s a shame that the case, which by law has to be tried in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge owing to the fact Edwards is named the defendant, was put in front of Judge Janice Clark, one of the worst, least jurisprudentially-sound and most-politicized judges in the entire state. It’s a surprise that Clark, as of this writing about 24 hours after the filing of the suit, hasn’t shot the plaintiffs down in their plea for an injunction against the mandate; nobody really believes Clark is going to entertain the suit. It’s going to have to be decided by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, both of which are far more legalistic than Clark.
But hope springs eternal. There will undoubtedly be other suits; in all likelihood there will be countless numbers of them. Justin Molaison, the lead plaintiff in this suit, just had the (suspiciously) bad luck of drawing Clark, but the more suits are filed using this as a template, the better the chances are of catching a better judge and getting a fairer hearing.
The Molaison suit’s complaint is 13 pages long, and it’s a worthy read. It traces the key events leading up to Edwards’ mask mandate, noting that Edwards could say he was following federal guidelines for most of his actions until most recently, when he and lots of other public officials – and public health bureaucrats – decided to pretend that while normal activities like working out at a gym or going to a bar were “risky” where COVID-19 are concerned, attending a “mostly peaceful” protest carried no risk of spreading the virus. The suit quotes from 5th Circuit federal judge James Ho, who noted this inconsistency and predicted it would have an effect eventually…
In recent weeks, officials have not only tolerated protests – they have encouraged them as necessary and important expressions of outrage over abuse of government power.
For people of faith demoralized by coercive shutdown policies, that raises a question; If officials are now exempting protestors, how can they justify continuing to restrict worshipers? The answer is that they can’t. Government does not have carte blanche, even in a pandemic, to pick and choose which First Amendment rights are “open” and which remain “closed.”
That’s from the Spell v. Edwards case, which involved Pastor Tony Spell’s having been cited for disobeying Edwards’ stay-at-home order and holding services at his Baton Rouge-area Life Tabernacle church. Ho’s observation was in a concurrence, as the 5th Circuit threw Spell’s suit out as moot since the stay-at-home order had expired, so it’s really dicta more than anything else. Still, it’s worth noting that a federal judge has already told Edwards there are limits to his shutdown orders.
Then there was this. We loved this.
The suit then launches into an examination of 89 JBE 2020, the governor’s executive order establishing the mask mandate and bar closure, declaring it “has no legal basis or authority.”
To make that statement, the Molaison plaintiffs start with the contention that it’s unconstitutionally vague and riddled with exceptions which would make ordinary folks break out into arguments as to what satisfies and what violates it.
And then, as we predicted, the complaint refers Judge Clark to Jeff Landry’s legal opinion on the subject that we predicted would count as a legal argument in a multiplicity of lawsuits on this question. Molaison clearly will not be the last to use it.
The complaint isn’t really tailored in particular to the plaintiffs. Molaison is an attorney in Jefferson who filed the suit along with fellow attorney Stephen Petit, while Ronald Dalleo and Jennifer Tusa are bar owners. But the proceedings can pretty much be cribbed by anybody wanting to have a go at Edwards.
Feel free to read it for yourself.. It’s unusual for legal pleadings to be entertaining and informative; this one is an exception.