Florida court reinstates stay, blocks mask mandates in schools

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Two days after Judge John Cooper allowed mask policies in schools, Florida’s 1st District Court reinstated the stay, blocking mask policies in schools for now.

The court case in question, Scott vs. DeSantis, was brought to allow school districts to impose mask mandates as the delta variant of COVID-19 continues to sweep across Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis, and the state government at large, have fought back against those policies, bringing on the lawsuit by parents in Florida concerned about their children’s health and safety.

The court case became contentious quickly, as Cooper ruled against the state where it mattered, allowing the mask policies. His ruling triggered an appeal, prompting an automatic stay as the governor and the state’s legal representation sought to block the policies.

Back in court on Wednesday, Cooper set the stay aside, allowing the school districts in question to have mask policies and protect them from state sanctions on the counties’ Board of Education members and school superintendents.

Now, that the higher court has reversed Cooper’s order to vacate the stay, allowing the state to block mask mandates or sanction school districts through powers imposed by a series of executive orders and regulations by state agencies while the appeals process continues in court.

For the court, the opinion from the 1st District reads:

The appellants ask that we quash the trial court’s vacatur of the automatic stay imposed by Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.310(b)(2). When a public officer or agency seeks appellate review, which is the case here, there is a presumption under the rule in favor of a stay, and the stay should be vacated only for the most compelling of reasons. See Fla. Dep’t of Health v. People United for Med. Marijuana, 250 So. 3d 825, 828 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018). Upon our review of the trial court’s final judgment and the operative pleadings, we have serious doubts about standing, jurisdiction, and other threshold matters. These doubts significantly militate against the likelihood of the appellees’ ultimate success in this appeal. Given the presumption against vacating the automatic stay, the stay should have been left in place pending appellate review. Accordingly, we grant the appellants’ motion, quash the trial court’s order vacating the automatic stay, and reinstate the stay required by Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.310(b)(2). A written order explaining this disposition will follow.

Order to reinstate stay in Scott vs. DeSantis, submitted by the 1st District Court of Appeal

Following the ruling by the 1st District, the Governor’s Office responded to the reinstatement of the stay, blocking mask mandates during the appeals process.

“Just like last year in the school re-opening litigation, the First District Court of Appeal has reinstated Florida’s ability to protect the freedom for parents to make the best decisions for their children while they make their own ruling on the appeal,” Taryn Fenske, a communications director for Gov. DeSantis, said. “We look forward to winning the appeal and will continue to fight for parents’ rights.”

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