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Kansas court ruling keeps law allowing COVID lawsuits alive

FILE - Kansas Supreme Court (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, Pool)
FILE - Kansas Supreme Court (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, Pool)(Orlin Wagner | AP)
Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 10:32 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — People still can sue Kansas counties over mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions and obtain a quick trial-court decision because of a Kansas Supreme Court ruling Friday.

The court declined to consider whether a law requiring trial-court judges to rule on such lawsuits within 10 days is constitutional. While the justices split over the reasons, they were unanimous in concluding that a Johnson County judge had no business striking down the law in a case that dealt with another legal question.

Judge David Hauber ruled that the law denied counties their right to due legal process and interfered with the courts’ power to handle their own business. But he did so in a lawsuit against a mask mandate imposed by a school district — not the county.

School districts aren’t covered by the law that applies to counties — and a separate law mandating the same expedited legal process in lawsuits against school districts expired in June.

“Today’s decision provides welcome clarity that the district court erred by going out of its way to ask and then answer questions not before it about the constitutionality of SB 40. I appreciate the Kansas Supreme Court eliminating the uncertainty hanging over Kansas emergency management law since the district court’s decision. The Legislature may also wish to thoughtfully review the concerns expressed, though improperly in this case, by the district court.”

Derek Schmidt, (R) Kansas Attorney General

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