Baker County judge: ‘Original ruling stands’ in stay-home order

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State of Oregon has until Thursday to file a brief with the state Supreme Court

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Baker County Judge Matthew Shirtcliff refused to vacate his order that Gov. Kate Brown erred by not seeking the Legislature’s approval to extend the stay-at-home orders beyond a 28-day limit.

His decision essentially ignores the options the Oregon Supreme Court laid out on Saturday: Shirtcliff had to either vacate his May 18 order, which would essentially nullify the lawsuit brought by 10 churches or present a case for why it should not vacate the order.

The Supreme Court issued a stay of the May 18 order and issued its initial ruling on Saturday.

“As you know, the Oregon Supreme Court issued an Alternative Writ of Mandamus on May 23, 2020. I have elected to stand by my original ruling. l will not be vacating the May 18, 2020 Order Granting Preliminary Injunctive Relief and Denying Motion To Dismiss or taking other action,” Shirtcliff wrote on Monday.

The judge had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to make his decision.

Since Judge Shirtcliff did not vacate his order, the State of Oregon has until Thursday to file a brief with the Oregon Supreme Court. The plaintiffs have until June 2 to file their brief on the issues.

Once those briefs are filed, there is no timeline for a decision, a spokesperson for the Oregon Judicial Department said. Any future actions or oral arguments will depend on what the Oregon Supreme Court orders.

For now, the Oregon Supreme Court’s stay against the Baker County ruling remains in effect — that is, Gov. Kate Brown’s stay-home order is still in place.

KOIN 6 News will have more information later in the day.

Oregon Supreme Court to lower court: Vacate ruling or present new argument
Oregon Supreme Court grants stay, Brown’s executive order remains

Previous information

The Baker County Circuit Court was issued an alternative writ of mandamus by the state Supreme Court Saturday, marking a turning point in the case of Elkhorn v. Brown.

The alternative writ of mandamus means the lower court has two options moving forward: It can either vacate its May 18 order, which would essentially nullify the lawsuit; or, it can present a case for why it should not vacate the order.

A rural judge’s order that had tossed out statewide coronavirus restrictions imposed by Gov. Kate Brown was halted within hours by the Oregon Supreme Court.

Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff had ruled that Brown erred by not seeking the Legislature’s approval to extend the stay-at-home orders beyond a 28-day limit. The Supreme Court’s ruling stays Shirtcliff’s decision pending review by all the high court justices.

The lower court judge had issued his opinion in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by 10 churches around Oregon that argued the state’s social-distancing directives were unconstitutional.

After the Oregon Supreme Court issued the Alternative Writ of Mandamus, Kevin Mannix, the attorney for 11 intervenors in the case and supporter of Judge Shirtcliff’s preliminary injunction, released a statement Saturday evening:

“We want everyone to be socially responsible and to be careful about what they do in order to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. We recognize that there are standard laws on the books that allow public health authorities to take reasonable steps to deal with this pandemic, including the issuance of guidelines. However, the Oregon laws do not allow the Governor to order activities or prohibit activities under the threat of criminal prosecution once 28 days have passed after her declaration of a public health emergency.”

Read the full statement here

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