Berrien County Judge Cancels Mask Warrant Trial Hearing | New



ST. JOSEPH – A court hearing regarding the Berrien County Health Department’s face mask warrant in schools was called off Thursday morning, September 30, due to the public health order being overturned on Wednesday evening.

However, the case can continue.

Berrien County Magistrates’ Court Judge Dennis Wiley gave Grand Rapids attorney James Thomas two weeks to file a brief explaining why the case should continue, with school district attorney having two weeks after that to respond.

The health department issued the public health order requiring masks in schools on September 1, saying the masks would help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The order was overturned at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, September 29, due to wording in the 2022 state budget, which indicated that health services that issue emergency orders to fight the virus could lose funding public.

Three parents filed a lawsuit on September 8 on behalf of their children, saying the local public health order is unconstitutional because there is no statewide emergency and because the legislature of the state cannot delegate its authority to an unelected head of department.

All three parents have filed a lawsuit on behalf of their children, who are students of Bridgman High School, Upton Middle School and Lakeshore Middle School, who have been listed as defendants with the service Health Officer and Acting Health Officer Courtney Davis.

Thursday’s hearing was due to hear arguments on whether a preliminary injunction should be put in place to prevent the application of the mask warrant while the court case weaves its way through the court system.

Wiley said that since there was no longer a county-wide mask warrant, the hearing was no longer necessary. Wiley wondered if the trial should continue.

Thomas said Lakeshore and Bridgman schools no longer had a mask mandate, but St. Joseph’s schools still did.

On August 23, school trustees at St. Joseph’s School Board approved the requirement for masks at all grade levels in the school district.

Thomas said he wanted to change the lawsuit to reflect the fact that even though the health department’s mask order was overturned, St. Joseph’s schools still have one in place.

Thomas added that he did not want to dismiss the lawsuit against the Department of Health because he does not know what will happen in a week or two regarding the warrant.

After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the 2022 state budget on Wednesday, she wrote in a letter that she would not allow what she called unconstitutional budget language to take effect.

Wiley said he didn’t think an amended complaint was appropriate. If the health department issues a new mask warrant in the future, Wiley said a new complaint could be filed.

He said the St. Joseph Schools mask mandate had nothing to do with the Department of Health’s mask mandate.

“Your complaint, Mr. Thomas, concerns the three school districts that they were enforcing a now canceled order from the health department. And their response was (…) that they were complying with a legal order, at the time, from the health department to apply a mask warrant, ”he said.

Wiley said the original complaint had nothing to do with school district decisions on mask warrants.

“They are a separate body from the Department of Health,” he said.

Wiley said that after receiving the briefs explaining why the case should or should not proceed, he would either hold another hearing or render a decision based on the briefs.



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