Montana: Lawsuit seeks to undo Bullock’s COVID restrictions

December 15, 2020 | By

“A group of individuals and business owners on Monday sued outgoing Gov. Steve Bullock in state district court, seeking to undo the governor’s directive requiring people to use face coverings and restrictions on businesses to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A constitutional expert says the lawsuit is unlikely to be successful, but the state Legislature is also planning attempts when it convenes in January to curb a governor’s emergency power in a public health emergency.

The lawsuit is the latest to challenge Bullock’s actions over the last nine months of the pandemic. It names Bullock as a defendant in his official capacity, so when the Democrat leaves office Jan. 4, Republican Gov.-elect Greg Gianforte would automatically be slated in his place.

The lawsuit argues Bullock’s March executive order declaring a state of emergency should have expired after 30 days unless the federal government or state Legislature allowed for its extension.

Missoula attorney Quentin Rhoades, who represents Stand Up Montana, argued because of that, a statewide mask order Bullock issued in July and a new set of business restrictions put into place in November should therefore be voided.

Bullock’s office did not respond with a comment on the Stand Up Montana lawsuit by press time on Tuesday. The governor’s order tied the state of emergency in Montana to the national emergency end date of March 13, 2021.

The group claims loss of income and livelihood due to COVID 19-related restrictions. In its pushback against the mask mandate, Stand Up Montana claims the directive forces its membership “to wear a universal symbol of submission to tyrannical power.””


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