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.
In the court’s majority opinion, Justice Dan Biles wrote that “a long-standing doctrine of judicial restraint” is that courts should avoid deciding on a law’s constitutionality if they can resolve a case another way. The court concluded that Hauber should not have ruled on the law covering counties.