SEVERE WX : Freeze Warning - Red Flag Warning View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

County judge suspends Governor Brown's COVID-19 executive orders in church lawsuit

A judge in the Baker County Circuit Court has approved a preliminary injunction for the plaintiffs in a suit against Governor Kate Brown, rendering her executive orders 'null and void.'

Posted: May 18, 2020 12:21 PM
Updated: May 18, 2020 5:44 PM

BAKER CITY, Ore. — A county judge has effectively suspended Governor Kate Brown's coronavirus-related executive orders while presiding over a lawsuit brought by Oregon churches and other individuals.

Baker County Circuit Court judge Matthew Shirtcliff approved a request from the plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction on the order, denying a request from state attorneys for a stay on the decision.

The lawsuit itself comes from at least 10 Oregon churches and multiple individuals who argue that Governor Brown's orders are not consistent with the state constitution or legal statutes. They are represented by attorney Ray Hacke of the Pacific Justice Institute.

“These churches don’t want to live in fear of violating the law, they don’t want their congregants to live in fear of violating the law,” Hacke told NewsWatch 12 last week. “A lot of churches share Governor Brown’s concerns about public health and safety, they don’t want to endanger anybody in their congregation, they certainly don’t want to endanger anybody in the community.”

While the vast majority of Oregon counties have entered Phase One of reopening, churches in particular continue to see restrictions that some find unacceptable. Under Phase One, socially distant gatherings of 25 people or less are allowed, opening the door to smaller services. Regardless, the plaintiffs in this case are arguing for a total rollback of these gathering restrictions.

Brown's lawyers requested a 48-hour hold on the judge's Monday decision, but the Baker County judge denied the request. According to Hacke, this makes Brown's coronavirus orders "null and void" effective immediately.

Both Hacke and a representative from Governor Brown's office acknowledged that the ruling, whatever its merit, applies broadly to the extended executive orders — many of which have been in place since March — and not narrowly to religious gatherings.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Monday, Governor Brown's office issued a statement arguing that the science behind her orders "hasn't changed one bit," in spite of the court's decision.

“Today’s ruling from the Baker County Circuit Court will be appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court within hours to keep my emergency orders in effect," Brown said. "This will ensure we can continue to safeguard the health of all Oregonians — including frontline health care workers, those living in nursing homes, workers in agriculture and food processing plants, and Oregonians with underlying health conditions –– while the legal process moves forward."

State Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum agreed, saying in a statement that her office would immediately appeal the decision to the Oregon Supreme Court.

"When the legislature adopted public health emergency statutes, it specifically said that it was not limiting the governor’s authority to deal with large-scale emergencies," Rosenblum said. “With all respect, I believe the trial court’s grant of a preliminary injunction is legally incorrect. We will argue that the judge erred in his construction of the relevant statutes and that he abused his discretion in issuing the preliminary injunction. We will also be asking for an immediate stay of his order."

"Reopening the state too quickly, and without ongoing physical distancing, will jeopardize public health and cost lives," Brown continued. “It is irresponsible to dismiss the health risks and science behind our measures to stop COVID-19. We would be faced with the prospect of another mass outbreak without the tools that have proven to be effective in protecting our friends, families, neighbors, and loved ones from this disease.”

“I urge Oregonians to continue to comply with the measures in place," Rosenblum said. "They are there to protect all of us, and they are working. We are in close contact with the Governor and intend to support, as allowed by law, the critical work she has done, guided by public health experts, to ensure the safety and health of all Oregonians.”

NewsWatch 12 is working to get more information on the decision and its ramifications. This article will be updated as more details emerge.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 42101

Reported Deaths: 653
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah9137160
Marion5819108
Washington573975
Umatilla334944
Clackamas309765
Lane235427
Malheur191538
Jackson16696
Deschutes112313
Yamhill98715
Linn80315
Polk65015
Jefferson6049
Morrow5456
Lincoln51713
Union4662
Benton4416
Klamath4103
Douglas3495
Wasco34715
Hood River2771
Josephine2673
Columbia2591
Clatsop2420
Coos2380
Baker1203
Crook1072
Tillamook700
Curry571
Wallowa442
Lake350
Harney230
Sherman180
Gilliam110
Grant110
Wheeler10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 906596

Reported Deaths: 17358
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2997606993
Riverside659021279
San Bernardino626191072
Orange585731447
San Diego54583870
Kern33813416
Fresno30752436
Sacramento25372484
Santa Clara24144388
Alameda23312461
San Joaquin21630489
Contra Costa18621241
Stanislaus17629396
Tulare17495286
Ventura14240164
Imperial12700336
San Francisco12103140
Monterey1137291
San Mateo11075159
Santa Barbara9781120
Merced9465155
Sonoma9312136
Kings822883
Solano728674
Marin7074128
Madera498174
San Luis Obispo414132
Placer409357
Yolo319159
Butte307852
Santa Cruz278825
Napa195715
Shasta187830
Sutter183712
San Benito143715
El Dorado13174
Yuba129310
Mendocino112721
Tehama8728
Lassen7661
Lake69615
Glenn6573
Nevada6088
Humboldt5629
Colusa5506
Calaveras34218
Amador32816
Tuolumne2694
Inyo22715
Siskiyou1930
Mono1802
Del Norte1781
Mariposa782
Plumas680
Modoc290
Trinity250
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
35° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 30°
Brookings
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 58°
Crater Lake
Clear
14° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 14°
Grants Pass
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 28°
Klamath Falls
Clear
23° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 23°
Critical fire danger continues
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events