AG Herring successfully defends mask requirement from legal challenge

Attorney General Mark Herring successfully defended Virginia’s “mask or face covering requirement” against a legal challenge in Fauquier County.

The plaintiffs in this case, a winery and its owner had filed suit challenging Gov. Ralph Northam’s ability to order the use of face coverings and claiming the order conflicted with the criminal statute barring the wearing of a mask in public “with the intent to conceal his identity.”

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Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction allowing them to opt out of the mask law, but earlier today Judge Jeanette Irby of the Twentieth Judicial Circuit denied the request for an injunction after finding that “the Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate a clear showing of likely success on the merits.”

“Wearing a mask is such an easy, effective way to help control the spread of COVID and to show your fellow Virginians that you care about the health and well-being of your friends, neighbors, and community,” Herring said. “As cases continue to spike around the country, we know that our progress in controlling COVID in Virginia is real, but requires a sustained commitment to things like covering our faces and maintaining social distancing whenever possible. I’m proud we were able to defend this commonsense measures to help stop COVID, and I’m really proud of all the great work my team has done to keep Virginians safe during this uncertain time.”

In Judge Irby’s ruling, she finds that “Contrary to the Plaintiffs’ contention, the Governor’s powers do not preclude him from issuing orders requiring face coverings, and in fact, VA CODE ANN 182.3-422 explicitly anticipates such an event.”

She found that there “is no conflict between the criminal code and the executive order” because the executive order provides a specific purpose for the mask—“facilitating the protection of one’s personal health”—that makes the mask law inapplicable.

Judge Irby also wrote that “considering the virus’ unusually contagious nature, the Court finds that the requirements of EO63 have been made in god faith and are supported by scientific data,” and that the plaintiffs harm was “purely speculative” and “not irreparable.”

         
 

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