Illinois appellate court rejects Pritzker’s appeal to keep kids in masks

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
February 18, 2022

Illinois appellate court rejects Pritzker’s appeal to keep kids in masks

The appellate court ruling marks Pritzker’s second loss in cases challenging his mask mandate in schools.

On Feb. 17 the Fourth District Appellate Court rejected Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s appeal of a temporary restraining order on his school mask mandate. The TRO at issue also covered mandates requiring weekly testing of unvaccinated school employees and the quarantining of students and teachers who are “close contacts” of confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases.

In addition to the TRO, originally entered on Feb. 4, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) of the Illinois General Assembly voted 9-0-2 on Feb. 15 against extending Pritzker’s emergency rules to enforce state mask, exclusion and testing mandates.

The appellate court ruled JCAR’s action made the appeal moot, as the rules at the heart of the case are no longer in effect. It did not decide whether the TRO was proper in the first place.

The TRO is a mechanism to keep the pre-mandate status quo in place while the cases against the mandates proceeded in court.

Now that the appellate court has rejected Pritzker’s appeal, the case will go back to Judge Raylene Grischow in the Sangamon County Circuit Court for a final decision on the merits. The state could also appeal the appellate court’s decision dismissing his TRO appeal to the Illinois State Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs are arguing that, under Illinois law, students and teachers cannot be required to wear masks or be excluded from school premises for “close contact” without either 1) their consent and/or 2) a full evidentiary hearing and court order that are required under the Illinois Department of Public Health Act, i.e., due process.

As Judge Grischow noted in the TRO, the plaintiffs were not seeking to dismantle any order related to masking, vaccination or testing policies – but only sought that their rights of due process as guaranteed by Illinois law be provided should they object to those requirements, which are deemed forms of “quarantine” under Illinois law.

She also noted the state had argued, “the Governor has unlimited authority to do whatever is necessary.”

As of Feb. 14, the plaintiffs’ attorney indicated over 550 school districts around the state had gone “fully masks optional” since the TRO was entered.

For more information on the background of case, click here.

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