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New arguments make it to court on lawsuits challenging Gov. Lee’s pandemic executive orders

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Posted at 8:09 PM, Jan 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 21:09:48-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — State attorneys have motioned for Chancellor Patricia Moskal to dismiss a second lawsuit against Gov. Bill Lee and executive orders he’s issued since the pandemic.

Attorney Bryant Kroll of The Blackburn Law Firm represents the transpotainment industry and Gary Humble as plaintiffs in their respective lawsuits. Humble also serves as the executive director for Tennessee Stands. A nonprofit social advocacy organization, "working to protect the individual liberty of all Tennesseans."

On Friday, Kroll defended Humble’s lawsuit which he first introduced this past August. Each lawsuit argues that Gov. Lee’s executive orders made it possible for county governments to in effect write laws such as a mask mandate.

Humble lives in Williamson County where they’ve imposed a mask mandate. In the lawsuit, Humble says he’s asthmatic, so he’s refused to wear a mask. Rather than understand his condition, he says businesses continue to refuse him entry or service. Humble says he’s had his home vandalized and he continues to face harassment on social media from those who oppose his stance on masks.

Last year Humble removed his children from school because of the mask mandate imposed by the county. A mandate that state attorney Janet Kleinfelter argued, Humble could have received a waiver for if he chose not to have his kids wear masks.

Humble has since filed a lawsuit against the Williamson County Board of Education and the director of schools. The Williamson County defendants filed a motion to dismiss which was argued on Dec. 21 and a ruling is still pending at this time.

Humble makes a final complaint in the lawsuit saying that because others have been arrested and prosecuted for not wearing masks, it’s apparent he could face the same punishment.

“It is a crime in Williamson County and this crime was created by a mayor. I searched and I could not find anywhere where a mayor had the authority to dictate what is and what is not a criminal offense. That is because they don’t have this authority,” Kroll said.

According to Kroll, this can all be traced back to Gov. Lee’s office. Kleinfelter disagreed and pointed to the fact that there is no statewide mask mandate.

“Also, the mask mandate that was issued by Williamson County contains that exact exception which is required by the governor’s executive order,” Kleinfelter said.

Kleinfelter says there’s no way to directly tie Gov. Lee back to the actions of third parties who were not in court. She called for the lawsuit to be dismissed, claiming there’s no legal standing for this case. No matter if Chancellor Patricia Moskal rules in Humble’s favor, nothing guarantees a private business won’t impose these mandates anyway.

“Nor would it prohibit or have any effect on local county boards of health,” Kleinfelter said.

Kroll was willing to accept that at times it may be necessary for the governor to issue an emergency order, but we’re nearly a year into the pandemic and still, we see more orders.

“If the statute merely read he has 60 days to declare a state of emergency for 60 days period, we probably wouldn’t be here before this court,” Kroll said.

Kroll says without restrictions, we set a dangerous precedence in what we already know are unprecedented times.

“This case is not about the pros and cons of wearing a mask. This is about which branch of government has the authority to criminalize not wearing a mask,” Kroll said.

Chancellor Moskal has not said when to expect a decision on either lawsuit, but attorneys have made it clear that either way they intend to file appeals immediately after.