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Lawsuit challenging Utah's mask mandate restrictions dismissed

Posted at 3:21 PM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-13 19:00:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A judge has thrown out a lawsuit challenging Utah's restrictions on COVID-19 mask mandates in schools.

The lawsuit filed by a group of parents and the Concerned Coalition of Utah challenged the legislature's laws limiting the ability of school districts to impose mask mandates. They argued it violated the Utah State Constitution's provision giving children a right to an education.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, 3rd District Court Judge Vernice Trease sided with Governor Spencer Cox, the Utah Attorney General's Office and Salt Lake County. She was, however, sympathetic to the parents and the Concerned Coalition of Utah in the impacts of COVID-19 and their childrens' health.

"Plaintiffs have done a capable job of explaining that impact here," Judge Trease wrote. "That perspective is valuable and important and would have obvious relevance in determining if a mask mandate should be imposed. But, again, that issue is not before the Court."

Judge Trease essentially said circumstances surrounding the virus have changed, rendering a lot of the claims moot. Indeed, most mask requirements and COVID-19 related health restrictions have been lifted as a result of declining cases.

Greg Skordas, the attorney for the parents and the Concerned Coalition of Utah, told FOX 13 News on Wednesday he was contemplating an appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.

"The judge gave us every consideration and she gave us a fair hearing," he said. "But it's disappointing and we are considering appealing."

The Concerned Coalition signaled it would like to appeal.

"We are extremely disappointed in the judge’s decision to dismiss our case. We remain confident in the merits of our position and will continue to explore all legal avenues. Our legal action is vital in checking the overreach of elected leaders and restoring the appropriate powers of local public health and educational institutions. Despite the current lull in Utah COVID-19 infections, we firmly believe state and local government leaders violated the state constitution and placed vulnerable children in protected classes at unnecessary risk at times where unprecedented public health risk was present in our communities," the group said in an email to FOX 13 News. "This ruling is especially concerning against a backdrop where mitigation efforts have been dismantled in Utah and across the country, leaving vulnerable populations at risk. Without a check on legislative overreach, local authorities will be unable to adequately respond to future public health emergencies."

The Utah Attorney General's Office declined to comment on the ruling.

"The governor agrees with the Court’s findings," Gov. Cox's communications director Jennifer Napier Pearce said in a statement to FOX 13 News.

Read the judge's ruling here: