Judge Rules Against DeSantis on Mask Mandates

Judge Rules Against DeSantis on Mask Mandates

By Ryan Dailey, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Ruling that Gov. Ron DeSantis overstepped his constitutional authority, a Leon County circuit judge on Friday sided with a group of parents in a high-profile lawsuit challenging DeSantis’ July 30 executive order that sought to bar school districts from requiring students to wear masks.

The ruling came as coronavirus cases are increasing in schools across the state, prompting student quarantines by the thousands in some districts. Ten districts have defied the governor’s order, enacting mask mandates with exceptions only for medical reasons.

Circuit Judge John Cooper issued an injunction barring the state Department of Education, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and the State Board of Education from enforcing DeSantis’ order.

“I am not granting an injunction against the governor of Florida. I am granting an injunction against the other defendants who are the ones primarily involved in enforcement actions,” Cooper said.

But Cooper said he could not strike down a state Department of Health rule that was triggered by DeSantis’ order. The rule said, in part, that any local school mask mandates must allow parents to opt out. The health department was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Cooper’s ruling hinged largely on a new state law dubbed the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which deals with parents’ right to control education and health decisions for their children.

Cooper ruled that the Parents’ Bill of Rights grants school districts the right to impose student mask mandates and that state officials could challenge the requirements — but only if the districts were given due process.

“The actions of the defendants do not pass constitutional muster because they seek to deprive the school boards in advance and without the school boards’ right to show the reasonableness of the policy. The law does not require that the school board get permission for the policy in advance, it requires only that if a policy is challenged, it has a burden to prove its validity under the guidelines of the statute,” Cooper said.

DeSantis said Thursday that the Parents’ Bill of Rights was a lynchpin of the state’s arguments for preventing school mask mandates. He contends that parents should be able to decide whether their children wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When you have a bill of rights, if your individual right as a parent is violated, then you have the ability then to go in and seek vindication. They’re obviously doing the opposite there in Tallahassee, they’re trying to basically nullify the Parents’ Bill of Rights,” DeSantis said, referring to the lawsuit.

But Democrats quickly praised Cooper’s ruling Friday.

“This politically driven power grab (by DeSantis) put the health and safety of millions of Florida’s children, their families and their communities at risk,” Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, said in a prepared statement.

Cooper focused on wording in the new law, which says the government cannot infringe on the rights of parents regarding education and health care “without demonstrating that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest” and that the action is narrowly tailored and not otherwise served by less restrictive means.

“What that law says, this is how I interpret it, is normally you can’t interfere with the rights of parents to direct schooling and education, unless there is a reasonable basis to do so,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the Parents’ Bill of Rights “doesn’t ban mask mandates at all” and doesn’t require that school mask mandates include parental opt outs.

DeSantis on Thursday promised to appeal if Cooper ruled against the state. But Friday’s decision marked a legal setback in the governor’s controversial efforts to prevent mask requirements as COVID-19 cases surge because of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

Another Leon County circuit judge last year ruled against DeSantis and Corcoran in a lawsuit challenging a state move to require school campuses to be open during the pandemic. But the 1st District Court of Appeal ultimately reversed the circuit judge’s decision and sided with DeSantis.

Taryn Fenske, a DeSantis spokeswoman, said the administration expects a similar result in the mask case. 

“We are used to the Leon County Circuit Court not following the law and getting reversed on appeal, which is exactly what happened last year in the school reopening case,” Fenske said in an email Friday. “We will continue to defend the law and parent’s rights in Florida, and will immediately appeal the ruling to the First District Court of Appeals, where we are confident we will prevail on the merits of the case.”

16 Responses to "Judge Rules Against DeSantis on Mask Mandates"

  1. @ Duped State…

    I put your rant through the washer, agitator, and a double spin cycle turning it inside out and upside down and it still made no sense.

    I did give it my All…

  2. @Hope –

    Hahahaha! I get it! People that have disorders that require removal of parts of the brain are funny. That is hilarious! You consider a job as a joke writer for Ron DeSantis. Have you tried googling “florida covid”? You should make a hilarious joke about that!

    You lost me at your inability to acknowledge observable reality.

    Trump negotiated with the Taliban regarding withdrawal of American military power. The observable truth that Trump negotiated a US withdrawal from Afghanistan is a part of the fact based record.

    The word of the American President when agreeing to a settlement should mean something even after an election. I just happen to think that. Maybe you feel differently. If Biden hadn’t withdrawn, what reason does anyone have to think we will honor our pledges? Please think carefully about this question.

    I actually think Trump had a good idea to leave Afghanistan. I wish Obama had done it. I wish Bush had done it. I mean, I’ll blame Trump for lots of things, being a serial cheater on his wives, lying about nearly everything, being a con man, being a bore, having a solid gold toilet, being racist, putting a podiatrist or whatever in charge of covid, telling people to drink aquarium cleaner for covid, getting laughed at by the entire United Nations, being an idiot, making fun of disabled people, having half his cabinet resign including a ton of military leaders, encouraging absurd election claims, not caring about January 6, and plenty of other fact based observations.

    But I still think he was on the right track in regard to Afghanistan. But there isn’t any way we just unpack from a country in half a year after we spent 20 years moving in.

  3. Displaced P.erson…

    You lost me at Blame Trump… You suffer from analysis paralysis. Please consult a professional to confirm my diagnosis.

    You’ll feel much better after the lobotomy.

  4. @Hope –

    For a group of people that are so valiantly brave to face down a virus with ivermectin, or scream at teachers or city commissioners, you are terrified of a bunch of idiots in pickup trucks a few continents away. You are the ones who should stop living in fear like snowflakes.

    As a part of the observable fact-based record, Trump made a treaty with the Taliban which provided the agreed upon date which the US would pull out. If Biden had backtracked, we would be seen as a country whose word is only as good as the next election. I can see how people who managed the doublethink their way through Trumps five years of constant lying might not have a problem with that, but the way I was raised was that your word was supposed to mean something; not mean something so long as it was convenient.

    I happen to believe we waited seventeen years too long, give or take, to get out of Afghanistan. We cannot fix those people. We didn’t have the patience for nation building, and it seems quite clear that the army we trained and funded for the past two decades wasn’t really interested either.

    The ultimate irony is, if more of the unvaccinated mouthbreathers who think your narrative makes sense (?) would stay behind closed doors with a closet full of guns to protect themselves from the inevitable implementation of Sharia law, we might actually make some progress on COVID.

    Florida number one in cases and deaths again today! Really a great job. Keep it up.

  5. Shallow Pony Soldier…

    I guess you missed the Supreme Court decision against Biden to continue President Trump’s stay in Mexico decision regarding the border. The Judge lambasted Biden for his irresponsibility. You rant-on in delight about inconsequential Low Court decisions that have no backbone, are unable to be enforced, and disingenuous.

    Apparently your pet rat chewed through your Tin Can String Communications Center, so let me bring you up to speed and provide the real intel.

    Biden’s lack of leadership managed to have 13 members of our military killed. We are seen as a weak Nation throughout the world. He has allowed new terrorist groups to emerge… ISIS-K who kills infants and their mothers. They will easily get through our borders where Biden fails to secure.

    Biden has managed to put us upside down and inflation grows daily. We have the highest gas prices since Obama. We are no longer a secure Nation. We are under constant terror threats.

    Biden’s handling of Afghanistan is a travesty and his ineptness has managed to ignite terror and death to our finest. Biden erased 20 years of the military’s work within hours.

    Please come out of your basement and allow some light to infiltrate your dark soul.

  6. @Hope –

    That is a very clever retort! Until this very moment, I was counting on my mask to defend me from ISIS! You seem to have a keen eye for foreign policy measures. When is ISIS coming to Tallahassee again? Maybe they’re going to afraid if I keep on bleating about Amelia island or random text messages I need to know the content of?

    Unfortunately for your worldview, it doesn’t make any of Ronnie’s legal defeats go away. How’s the ban against vaccine mandates for cruising going? Pretty good? How about that law he passed to punish social media companies (except Disney!) for censoring people going? Pretty good?

    @Mike L – Thanks for your concern!

    But you are correct, there is something bothering me; namely the proliferation of scientifically illiterate people running and ruining a political party and the consequent ramifications for the country, state, and community I live in. It drives me crazy to know so many people revel in ignoring the principles of the applying the scientific method because it somehow violates their tribal need to be on a winning team. It makes me angry to see how deeply ingrained racism is in a set of people that are my neighbors. It makes me deeply sad to see how policy is being driven by the loudest and dumbest among us, driven by people who continually argue in bad faith. Florida hospitals are literally bursting at the seams with people dying from COVID, and we have a group of morons that actively want to make it burn hotter because taking the smallest preventative measure might mean accepting that they were wrong, that someone with a different political mindset was right. That’s disgusting, and that mindset is on display all the time here.

    Are you really willing to argue that if a school board had issued a mandate that children could not wear their pants saggy, this group wouldn’t have cheered them on, despite the impact on ‘parental rights’? Would you really make that argument in good faith? Be honest.

  7. Director Silly Protocol…

    I hope you’re wearing your mask when Isis k knocks on your door. That mask will keep you safe!

  8. Imagine if Gillum had been elected and tried to pass this kinda dumb sh!t, except instead of banning mask mandates, he tried to ban mandates on wearing saggy pants, or tank tops, or Black Lives Matter t-shirts.

    The same set of people clutching their pearls about personal freedoms would be apoplectic on government over reach of such a move. You could not give half a care about the personal freedoms of parents to send their kids to school with their jeans just over their knees or BLM shirts. You guys hate mandates that are counter to a scientifically bankrupt political ideology, and love them if they align with your racist ideology.

    That is because you are hypocrites.

  9. Time for civil disobedience! Send your kid to school without a mask then when you’re called to pick them up, refuse.

  10. How many times is this guy going to lose in court? I mean, I know he’ll lose again when he appeals his loss regarding cruise ships. He’ll lose this one again when he appeals. His social media “don’t censor me” crybaby law lost in court. Getting spanked in court and leading the country in covid cases and deaths seems to be the only things he’s number 1 at.

    I mean, he wanted to follow in Trump’s footsteps, so he’s well on the right path as far as his legal maneuvering goes.

  11. Circuit Judge John Cooper of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Leon County is an elected official. I don’t know when he will be up for reelection but I am making a note to myself so I do not forget the name so I can be sure to vote against him.

    In the meantime, all I can say is homeschooling, homeschooling, homeschooling, homeschooling, homeschooling…….

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