Q&A – Will The State Win The School Mask Mandate Case On Appeal? Part 2

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Q&A Of The Day – Will The State Win The School Mask Mandate Case On Appeal? Part 2

Bottom Line: In Governor DeSantis’s response to Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper’s ruling on Friday, he had this to say: It’s not surprising that Judge Cooper would rule against parent’s rights and their ability to make the best educational and medical decisions for their family, but instead rule in favor of elected politicians. This ruling was made with incoherent justifications, not based in science and facts – frankly not even remotely focused on the merits of the case presented. 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. 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. The piece regarding the court frequently having their rulings overturned on appeal is the focus of the second of today’s Q&A questions. 

Leon County’s Circuit Court has had many cases overturned when the state has appealed them over the years. As cited in the governor’s response, it was just last fall that the Leon County Circuit Court sided with teachers unions attempting to prevent any classroom education in Florida’s public schools last year. That’s the most compelling for two reasons, it’s the most recent contested case – and it involved the safety of operating our schools during the pandemic. When the Leon County Court ruling was overturned there was one note that was especially compelling in the context of the school mask case. As part of the 31-page decision this was stated: (The Leon County Court’s ruling) Reveals the perils of judicial decision-making in this policy-laden arena. In other words, any judicial ruling on the topic is inherently policy making and the legislative branch, not the judicial branch is where policy is made. That logic, if the appeals court sticks with it, certainly applies here. Incidentally, the Leon County Circuit court judge who ruled with the teacher’s unions to keep schools closed last year, Charles Dotson, is the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the school mask case. 

Beyond last year’s school reopening case, the Leon County Circuit court has had about a case per year overturned on appeal. In 2019, the Leon County Court had their decision which struck down Florida’s law mandating a 24-hour informed consent period for abortions overturned. Also in 2019, the court had their ruling regarding home grown medical marijuana overturned. In 2017, the court had a ruling regarding the use of standardized tests in Florida’s schools overturned. Also, in 2017 the Leon County Circuit Court was overturned on a worker’s compensation case involving Florida’s businesses. I could continue because there’s been a steady flow of this over the past decade. These examples illustrate the state’s point that frequently the Leon County Circuit Court has been found to have violated the law in their rulings. Past rulings are not certainties regarding future legal results, but the state likes their chances, and they have reason to. To be continued...

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