Beshear, calling it ‘life-and-death battle,' asks courts to uphold orders

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) --  Gov. Andy Beshear’s legal team has filed papers with the Kentucky Supreme Court seeking to overturn lower court rulings in Boone and Scott County that halted enforcement of his executive orders related to the coronavirus pandemic.


The Boone County case involved restrictions in the number of children at a daycare and fans at an auto racetrack in Florence.  In Scott County, it was an agritourism business.  In both cases the circuit judge issued temporary restraining orders preventing the restrictions from being enforced.


On Monday, Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Glenn Acree denied a motion by the governor’s attorneys to dissolve the restraining orders, instead combining the two cases into one and assigning it to a three-judge appellate panel.


In his filing to the high court, which occurred at the close of business Tuesday, Beshear said, “The commonwealth is in a life-and-death battle against COVID-19 - the gravest threat to public health in over a century.  The stakes could not be higher to Kentuckians.  Cases are escalating, with 576 new cases reported today in Kentucky, alone.  Other states, such as Arizona – which has one and a half times the population of Kentucky – are routinely reporting thousands of new cases each day, and some of its hospitals requesting refrigerated trucks as their morgues run out of space.”


The filing claims the two circuit courts erred, in not citing a single case or statute in determining the executive orders violated the law, which is normally the case in court rulings. 


“These circuit court orders dangerously impair and impede the Petitioners' ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing 548 businesses to operate without following any requirements or guidance to protect anyone from COVID-19, and by allowing daycares across Kentucky to 28 children in a room at a time – an unsafe number -- when COVID-19 is endangering an increasing number of Kentucky children.”. 


It also states he took the unusual step of seeking to bypass the Court of Appeals, because, “a delayed judicial holding vindicating the governor's actions is no remedy at all for those Kentuckians who may become sick, who may spread the disease to others or who may die while the restraining orders remain in effect.  The death of additional Kentuckians cannot be remedied through later hearings or decisions.” 


Beshear says he is asking the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, which would require Appeals Judge Acree to order the circuit courts to dissolve their restraining orders.  “The people of Kentucky - and especially the children in now-unsafe daycares, the dedicated caretakers employed in those daycares and the thousands of Kentuckians who work at agritourism businesses – are at risk every day that the restraining orders remain in effect.” 


According to the governor’s filing, “Other courts have taken similarly extraordinary steps to ensure public officials can protect the public health.  This Court should do the same for the people of Kentucky. The governor's power to protect the lives and safety of Kentuckians is of paramount importance during this pandemic.”


Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who intervened on behalf of the businesses who filed the lawsuits against Beshear, said in a statement:


“Instead of taking a hard look at why his executive orders continue to be struck down by courts at every level, the governor would rather bypass the normal legal process to try and secure a favorable ruling by suing three of the judges who ruled against him.”


There is no word at this time on when the seven Supreme Court justices might decide if they will grant the governor’s petition.

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