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Judge told vacate or explain order nixing virus restrictions

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Judge told vacate or explain order nixing virus restrictions

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Supreme Court is giving a rural judge until Tuesday to toss out his ruling that found the governor’s coronavirus restrictions are invalid.

If the judge declines to do so, justices said Saturday that Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff must explain why and give the state and churches who sued over the stay-at-home directives an opportunity to make further arguments.

Shirtcliff ruled Monday that Gov. Kate Brown had exceeded her authority by shutting down in-person religious services to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The lawsuit was brought by 10 churches around Oregon and later was joined by several local elected officials and business owners.

Shirtcliff’s broad ruling also invalidated many of the other provisions of Brown’s stay-at-home order, including a ban on public gatherings and a ban on non-essential businesses and sit-down service in bars and restaurants.

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The Supreme Court quickly stayed Shirtcliff’s order, keeping Brown’s directives in place.

On Saturday, the justices sent the case back to Shirtcliff with orders to expunge his ruling or explain why not.

In his opinion, Shirtcliff wrote that the damage to Oregonians and their livelihood was greater than the dangers presented by the coronavirus. He also noted that other businesses deemed essential, such as grocery stores, had been allowed to remain open even with large numbers of people present and have relied on masks, social distancing and other measures to protect the public.“The governor’s orders are not required for public safety when plaintiffs can continue to utilize social distancing and safety protocols at larger gatherings involving spiritual worship,” he wrote.Courts in other states have ruled against similar orders. The Wisconsin […]

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