Wyoming Mask Mandate Lawsuit Dismissed

in News/Coronavirus

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit against the state of Wyoming and several school districts over mandates issued during the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal said in her order to dismiss the lawsuit that the plaintiffs in the case, including the parents of several Wyoming students, failed to respond in time to seven motions filed by defendants in the case seeking to dismiss the lawsuit.

“This is the second time that plaintiffs have failed to timely respond to several motions to dismiss, despite this court’s orders reminding them of the briefing deadlines…and warning that the court would consider future motions deemed confessed for lack of timely response, their culpability would seem high,” Freudenthal wrote in her ruling.

The lawsuit at one point included as plaintiffs Grace Smith, the teenager arrested at Laramie High School last fall for trespassing after refusing to wear a mask, and her father. But they were no longer involved with the lawsuit as of January.

The initial lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Nov. 2 alleged that rules adopted by some school districts requiring students to wear masks while in class, observe social distancing and to quarantine when exposed to coronavirus have been improperly adopted.

The lawsuit asked the court to find there was never an imminent threat to Wyoming’s residents from coronavirus, that Gov. Mark Gordon’s initial emergency declaration was unconstitutional, that school districts have no authority to impose such mandates and asks that all such orders should be lifted immediately.

The lawsuit was amended in January, after a December filing by Freudenthal called the original complaint filed on behalf of Grace Smith and others a “confused jumble of factual assertions…extensive citations to articles and other materials of nonparties…and legal arguments.”

Several plaintiffs and defendants have come and gone from the lawsuit in recent months.

Albany County School District No. 1, Sheridan County School District No. 2, Laramie County School District No. 1, Uinta County School District No. 6, Sweetwater County School District No. 2, Goshen County School District No. 1, the Sheridan Police Department, Wyoming Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist and Wyoming Department of Health interim Director Stefan Johansson were all dismissed from the lawsuit between December and January.

Gov. Mark Gordon, who was once involved in the lawsuit, announced Monday that he has begun the process to end Wyoming’s COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, two years after it was put in place.

The declaration will end March 14, two years after COVID was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

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