A Missouri resident, restaurant owner, and church file to have their case removed in court.
In 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, a group that included a Missouri resident, restaurant owner, and church attempted to fight back against local mandates that restricted occupancy in establishments and required mask-wearing by the public indoors. Now, that same group is attempting to drop a COVID lawsuit that it initiated, which puts to end a years-long battle over just how much power local jurisdictions have when it comes to what they can and cannot instruct residents to do in the midst of a public health crisis.
During the virus’ initial outbreak, Missouri, like all other states in America, enacted some strict rules that were created to prevent its spread. These rules included limiting the number of people allowed inside of a building at one time as well as the requirement of masks worn by all residents when indoors.
A group featuring multiple Missouri residents, business owners, and churchgoers created a lawsuit, which claims that these rules infringed on their constitutional rights as well as impaired the ability of businesses to turn a profit and churches to practice their religious expression in the middle of the outbreak. Eventually, a Missouri judge agreed with the group and ruled that local health departments did not have the right to enforce such rules.
The case received a lot of media attention at the time because it questioned whether municipal medical directors’ authority to impose limitations, such as quarantines and closures of businesses to address worries about the spread of the virus, was unconstitutionally granted by state health regulations.
St. Louis County and Jackson County appealed that ruling, which eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of Missouri. The Supreme Court rejected the judge’s initial decision recently in August and sent it back down to the counties.
The lawsuit remains but the group that originally protested Missouri’s COVID mandates are now asking for it to be dropped. The plaintiffs, via their lawyers, claim that they can no longer afford to continue fighting the legal battle they started in 2020. They also claimed that St. Louis County was wasting the money of taxpayers by continuing to pursue this case in court.
“Unlike St. Louis County, plaintiffs do not have other peoples’ money to throw away by continuing to fight this issue against an uncontrolled government,” the filing signed by St. Louis attorney Kimberley Mathis said. “This expensive litigation is therefore neither necessary nor worthwhile at this time.”
St. Louis County officials immediately applauded the group’s decision, stating that it allowed the Department of Public Health to do its job and protect the residents.
The case in question was political fodder at the time and introduced much of Missouri to Ben Brown, the owner of Satchmo’s Bar and Grill in Chesterfield. His fought with St. Louis County officials about the COVID rules were at the center of the lawsuit. Brown would also use the support that he gained from his fight to run for and win a seat in the state Senate.
According to the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, the state of Missouri has experienced 1,777,380 confirmed cases of COVID since the start of the pandemic, including 22,870 related deaths.