Gov. JB Pritzker will remove Illinois’ school mask mandate effective Monday after the Illinois Supreme Court declined to take up his appeal in a lawsuit filed against the state’s school COVID-19 measures.
Friday evening’s order by the Illinois Supreme Court canceled the Sangamon County Circuit Court’s restraining order against the governor’s mandates, but the attorney that brought the case on behalf of parents and school staff said the lower court’s underlying premise is still law.
“Even though the temporary restraining order is not in effect, [Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow’s] legal analysis is still the law of the state because neither the appellate court or the supreme court overruled her legal analysis,” attorney Thomas DeVore told The Center Square Friday evening.
DeVore argues individual due process rights to challenge quarantine orders are violated by the universal mandate.
“We are pleased the court acted quickly to vacate the TRO, as the state requested. However, as the case is returned to the circuit court, we will continue to defend the governor’s executive orders to protect all Illinois residents and mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” the Illinois Attorney General’s office said in a statement Friday.
More than 700 parents and dozens of school staff sued more than 160 school districts, state education officials and the Pritzker administration last fall. The case was heard in Sangamon County in January.
On February 4, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow ruled the governor’s mandates null and void.
Pritzker, through the Illinois attorney general, appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.
The following week, a bipartisan legislative panel, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, blocked emergency rules the governor filed the day before, but after the circuit court’s temporary restraining order against enforcement of the rules.
Last week, the appeals court determined Pritzker’s appeal was moot because of JCAR’s actions.
The order issued by the state’s high court Friday evening said, “Emergency motion by Petitioners for expedited consideration of Petition for Leave to Appeal and any subsequent proceedings on appeal. Allowed.”
“The petition for leave to appeal is denied,” the one-page order said. “In the exercise of this Court’s supervisory authority, the February 4, 2022, temporary restraining order is vacated.”
The order notes a 2007 case, Felzak v. Hruby, and said, “when an appeal is rendered moot through happenstance, the judgments of the courts below are vacated.”
“The matter is remanded to the Circuit Court of Sangamon County,” the order said.
A written dissent from Justices Michael Burke and David Overstreet is to follow.
Pritzker said he was “gratified” the state’s supreme court canceled the circuit court’s restraining order because his administration has the authority to put in effect a school mask mandate if needed in the future.
Pritzker also announced the school mask mandate will be removed on Monday followed new CDC recommendations released Friday.
“We will recommend that all school districts follow CDC guidance and will update our existing guidance in the coming days,” Pritzker said.
“We’re gonna come back into the circuit court and any school district that wants to do this mandate, we’re going to challenge that district,” DeVore said.
Lake and McHenry County Scanner and The Center Square both contributed to this story.