The stage is set for further written arguments before the Oregon Supreme Court about whether Gov. Kate Brown's executive orders in the coronavirus pandemic should stand.
A Baker County judge reaffirmed his May 18 order on Tuesday, May 26, in a three-sentence filing with the high court, which during the holiday weekend gave him a deadline to respond. Judge Matthew Shirtcliff could have vacated his original order, explained himself further or done nothing. "I have elected to stand by my original ruling," Shirtcliff wrote.
His original order tossed out around 20 of the governor's orders for about eight hours, until the Supreme Court granted a stay at 7:45 p.m. on May 18. The high court's stay means the orders are still in effect, although Brown has moved to modify some of them as most of Oregon's 36 counties proceed through the first stage of reopening business activity and public life.
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, representing the state, is scheduled to file written arguments with the high court by Thursday, May 28.
She said in a statement Tuesday: "We appreciate the Oregon Supreme Court's Saturday (of Memorial Day weekend) ruling and we look forward to the court's consideration of the legal issues. We will be filing an extensive brief on Thursday advocating for upholding the orders and allowing for the safe and orderly reopening of our state that is already well underway. Meanwhile the governor's orders remain lawful and in effect."
Lawyers for the churches and individuals who filed the original challenge to Brown's orders will file rebuttal arguments by Tuesday, June 2.
Kevin Mannix, a Salem lawyer and former legislator, represents Common Sense for Oregon, which joined the lawsuit by Pacific Justice Institute as intervenors. Mannix said the challenge was to the governor's legal authority to issue executive orders beyond a month without having them renewed by the Legislature.
"We will make the case that the rule of law in Oregon allows continued standard regulation of public health matters," Mannix said in a statement Tuesday. "But it does not allow the governor extraordinary powers to close down businesses and churches, beyond 28 days from the original declaration of a public health emergency."
It was unclear whether the justices will hear oral arguments in the case. They have decided cases based solely on written arguments.
In a separate statement on the Common Sense for Oregon website, the group urged people not to write directly to judges, but to convey their messages via the group or to legislators and the governor. Court rules do not allow unsolicited third-party contacts outside the court.
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