Governor JB Pritzker contends a mask mandate for Illinois schools is still in effect, despite a decision by a legislative committee’s suspension of that rule on Tuesday.
Pritzker called the vote by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) a “procedural move” and that schools not named in a Sangamon County lawsuit still have to mask up: “I think the most important point I want to make [in addressing this ruling] is that we have to do everything that we can to keep students and teachers safe while keeping our schools open. That has been my focus since the very beginning of this pandemic. Doctors says that masks are the best way to preserve in-person learning and keep children and staff safe. And, as I’ve said, the ruling by the Sangamon County judge created an enormous amount of confusion, which is why we have asked the Appellate Court to move quickly to respond. The executive order requiring masks is still in place. School districts that aren’t part of the lawsuit should follow the executive order. Everyone should feel comfortable wearing their masks to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe.
“As for the JCAR action, we re-filed the rule as a procedural step to simply keep the status quo in place while the Appellate Court considers our appeal [to the TRO]. The JCAR members preferred a different procedural route to suspend the rule while waiting for an Appellate Court ruling. I think we share the common view that we need to get a ruling, and either way, the next step is to hear from the Appellate Court and go forward.”
Pritzker says what’s needed now is for the Appellate Court to make a decision on the validity of that lower court ruling and the legality of the mask requirement.
Pritzker says he is looking forward to the indoor mask mandate for other places coming off on February 28th.
In filings to the Appellate Court yesterday afternoon, the Illinois Attorney General’s office said in their filing that the JCAR ruling related only to the IDPH renewed Emergency Rule, it does not affect the validity of Pritzker’s Executive Orders, and have asked the court to determine the enforceability of those executive orders: “Thus, regardless of the validity or invalidity of the IDPH Emergency Rule and regardless of JCAR’s action on February 15, this court should decide the consolidated appeals from the TRO and determine the enforceability of the EOs. And for the reasons stated in State defendants’ memoranda — the circuit court’s departure from the status quo, plaintiffs’ unlikelihood of success on the merits, their failure to establish irreparable harm, and the circuit court’s abuse of discretion in balancing the harms — this court should reverse and vacate the TRO.”
Attorney Thomas DeVore on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Sangamon County suit said in his filing that the JCAR ruling negates the crux of the Attorney General’s argument in the Sangamon County case: “As the parties all concur, this Court should review the trial court’s granting of the temporary restraining order at issue here for an abuse of discretion. An abuse of discretion will be found only where the court’s ruling is arbitrary, fanciful, unreasonable, or where or where no reasonable person would take the view adopted by the trial court. Abuse of discretion means clearly against logic; the question is not whether the appellate court agrees with the trial court, but whether the trial court acted arbitrarily, without employing conscientious judgment or whether, considering all the circumstances, the court acted unreasonably and ignored recognized principles of law, which resulted in substantial prejudice.
“The JCAR ruling has vitiated a significant part of the State Defendants argument. Should this Court listen to the JCAR audio, it was clear this legislative body was giving due respect and deference to Judge Grischow’s ruling, and in fact committee members scolded the IDPH representative for continuing to pursue re-issuance of a rule which Judge Grischow had found to be invalid. This legislative committee showed the proper respect to our judiciary that the executive agency was not. As for this Court, the question for today is what is left for it to decide given the actions by JCAR. It is the position of the Plaintiffs that the only matter left to review is whether Judge Grischow abused her discretion when she found Plaintiffs have raised a likelihood of success in showing a fair question exists that the IDPHA applies in regard to matters of quarantine, vaccination or testing, and exclusion from school, and that neither the Governor under some inherent Constitutional authority, or under some delegated authority under the IEMAA can authorize quarantine, vaccination or testing, and exclusion from school and disregard the due process protections of Plaintiffs. Also, this Court is left to decide those same questions as it relates to any inherent authority of the school districts. As to both of these questions, the Plaintiffs argue Judge Grischow has not abused her discretion, her restraining order should be affirmed, and the matter sent back to proceed to a final ruling on the merits off all of the pending matters.”
Jacksonville School District 117 discussed the matters at length during their monthly board meeting last night. In an email yesterday afternoon, Superintendent Steve Ptacek said that he is now preparing the board and the district for the reality that masks, and asymptomatic exclusions, and required testing might never return.
The Appellate Court has yet to provide a ruling on the temporary restraining order or the governor’s executive orders.