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Update posted Saturday afternoon May 23:

The Oregon Supreme Court has set a deadline of 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 26, for the Baker County trial court to either vacate its May 18 order granting plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, or to show cause by proceeding to further briefing.

The Order

On May 23, 2020, the Supreme Court:1. Issued an alternative writ of mandamus in : Elkhorn Baptist Church v. Katherine Brown, Governor of the State of Oregon(S067736)

Today, the Oregon Supreme Court issued an alternative writ of mandamus that pertains to a trial court order granting a motion for preliminary injunction, which enjoined enforcement of executive orders issued by Governor Brown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The alternative writ sets deadlines for additional briefing on Governor Brown's petition asking the Court to direct that the preliminary injunction be vacated. The issue of the preliminary injunction arose in an action for declaratory and injunctive relief filed in Baker County Circuit Court ("trial court") against the Governor.

Plaintiffs, a group of churches and individuals, sought a judicial declaration that Governor Brown's May 8, 2020, executive order declaring a 60-day state of emergency based on the COVID-19 pandemic, and other orders restricting the activities of Oregon residents issued pursuant to that declaration, were invalid or had expired. In particular, plaintiffs argued that the executive orders violated their religious freedoms and did not comply with statutory and constitutional durational restrictions on the Governor's emergency powers.Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction in the trial court to immediately enjoin enforcement of the Governor's executive orders while the merits of their declaratory and injunctive relief action were being decided.

The trial court granted that motion on May 18, 2020. Governor Brown immediately petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court to issue a peremptory writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate its preliminary injunction order or, otherwise, to issue an alternative writ that would allow the trial court an opportunity "show cause" why the order should not be vacated.

Governor Brown also moved to stay the preliminary injunction, pending resolution of her mandamus petition, and the Court granted that motion for stay.

The Court has now issued an alternative writ of mandamus, which sets a deadline of Tuesday, May 26, at 5:00 p.m., for the trial court to either vacate its May 18 order granting plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction or to show cause by proceeding to further briefing. The Court then set out short timelines for additional briefing on the question whether the trial court should be directed to vacate his May 18 preliminary injunction order that enjoined enforcement of the Governor's executive orders. The final briefing is due on Tuesday, June 2.

Update posted Saturday, May 23:

The Oregon Supreme Court accepted written arguments on Friday, May 22, in the case challenging Governor Kate Brown's Stay Home order and public restrictions.

Kevin Manix, the lead attorney for the group, stated the following in the testimony against the Stay Home order.

"When the Governor failed to renew the declaration of a public health emergency after 14 days from the date of the declaration, and then exceeded the 14-day additional time allowed before her Public Health Emergency Law powers expired, a legal harm occurred, with great consequences, and continues to occur every day that passes.

"Intervenors do not dispute the efficacy of the governor's initial decision to declare a public health emergency, but rather the Governor's failure to follow the procedure that the legislature prescribed."

The Supreme Court will now consider the written submissions and determine next steps, according to the Oregon Justice Department’s Communication and Outreach Analysts Todd, who said there is no specific timeline for a decision regarding next steps.

Attached to this story are the filings received May 22 from the plaintiffs in Elkhorn Baptist Church et. al. v. Katherine Brown, the petition filed May 18 by the Oregon Department of Justice, and an accepted amicus filing from the Oregon Nurses Association.

Previous Chronicle coverage posted Friday, May 22:

We should know soon concerning the stability of Governor Kate Brown's Stay Home Order.

Stay Home Order Challenge

The state supreme court temporarily upheld the Stay Home Order extension earlier this week.

The Oregon Supreme Court was scheduled today to accept arguments in a lawsuit challenging the extension of the order that was established in March to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state supreme court temporarily upheld the Stay Home Order extension earlier this week.

The ruling that came late Monday, May 18, followed Baker County Judge Mathew Shirtcliff’s decision that tossed out Brown’s coronavirus restrictions.

In issuing his ruling, Judge Shirtcliff said Brown’s restrictions were “null and void” because Brown did not have emergency orders approved by the Oregon Legislature following 28 days, according to the Associated Press.

The ruling follows a lawsuit that had been brought by churches who said the social-distancing directives were unconstitutional.

Brown issued the following statement following the Oregon Supreme Court’s emergency ruling late Monday, May 18, in the Elkhorn Baptist Church vs. Katherine Brown lawsuit.

“Following swift action by the Oregon Supreme Court, my emergency orders to protect the health and safety of Oregonians will remain in effect statewide while the court hears arguments in this lawsuit.”

“From the beginning of this crisis, I have worked within my authority, using science and data as my guide, heeding the advice of medical experts. This strategy has saved lives and protected Oregonians from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“There are no shortcuts for us to return to life as it was before this pandemic. Moving too quickly could return Oregon to the early days of this crisis, when we braced ourselves for hospitals to be overfilled and ventilators in short supply.”

“The science remains clear: by physically distancing, wearing face coverings, staying home as much as possible and only gradually reopening our communities we can save lives and keep Oregonians safe.

“We all look forward to visiting our loved ones in nursing homes, sending our children to school, and going to the grocery store without fear of spreading this disease. But the simple fact remains, COVID-19 is here in Oregon, and lives are at stake.”

Attorneys for the churches said they are disappointed with the Oregon Supreme Court ruling.

The Stay Home Order and the pandemic triggered the City of St. Helens to declare a State of Emergency. Read the update about that attached.

Follow new developments in this story here online.


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