Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks at a press conference Aug. 18, 2020. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)
A Louisiana appeals court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in response to Republican state legislators who have tried several times to overturn the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders.
The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling by Judge William Morvant, of the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, who in July granted Edwards a motion to dismiss the House petition that sought to suspend COVID-19 mitigation measures and allowed the governor to move forward with a lawsuit that sought to prohibit the lawmakers from trying to terminate any of his future emergency orders.
The appellate ruling has no effect on the governor’s current COVID-19 orders and statewide face mask mandate, which remain in full effect.
The legal saga stems from Oct. 23, the last day of the Legislature’s 2020 second special session, when 65 of the 68 House Republicans signed a petition that tried to force a 7-day suspension of the statewide public health emergency and all its coronavirus restrictions. The House petition was a last-ditch effort by those GOP lawmakers to check the Democratic governor’s use of his emergency powers. None of Louisiana’s Senate Republicans signed it.
The House members argued that their petition was valid because of a Louisiana statute that states: “The Legislature, by petition signed by a majority of the surviving members of either house, may terminate a state of disaster or emergency at any time…Thereupon, the governor shall issue an executive order or proclamation ending the state of disaster or emergency.”
Edwards immediately responded with a lawsuit arguing that the petition statute was unconstitutional because it “contravenes Louisiana’s separation of powers principles” because “a single chamber cannot enact legislation without the majority vote of the Senate and without the governor’s approval.”
In the district court’s first ruling last November, Morvant agreed with Edwards that the statute allowing a single chamber to end an order by petition was unconstitutional. However, the state Supreme Court vacated that ruling and sent the case back to Morvant, citing a procedural error that he improperly ruled on the constitutionality of the law before determining if the members of the House had properly followed that law.
In his second ruling in July, Morvant again ruled in favor of the governor and allowed him to move forward with the lawsuit that the appeals court dismissed Wednesday.
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