Judge blocks St. Louis County mask mandate in fight over council’s power to repeal it

·2 min read

A judge has blocked St. Louis County’s mask mandate, a decision sought by Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who has promised to sue over Kansas City’s new mask order.

Circuit Judge Ellen Ribaudo issued a temporary restraining order against County Executive Sam Page and other local officials on Tuesday preventing them from enforcing the mandate. The county council voted last week to repeal the order but Page insisted that the council doesn’t have the power to remove it.

Ribaudo’s ruling is solely focused on the dispute over the council’s authority, noting that there is “a likelihood of success on the merits” that the council had the power to repeal the mandate under state law. But she went out of her way to preempt attempts by Schmitt and others to paint her decision as win against masking.

“The court notes that although some will take this court’s ruling as a victory there is no victory while the COVID-19 virus remains a significant threat to public health and there is no question it remains a significant threat to public health,” wrote Ribaudo, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

After the ruling came out, Schmitt, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, said his office had “delivered a huge win for the people of St. Louis County.”

“This is an important, hard-fought victory, but our fight against unreasonable and unconstitutional government overreach continues,” Schmitt said in a statement.

Page tweeted that he was “disappointed in the judge’s decision as more and more mask requirements are put in place across the country to help slow this deadly virus.”

In her decision, Ribaudo wrote that the ruling “in no way speaks to or determines the wisdom of the St. Louis County Counsel [sic] vote to terminate the Face Covering Order.”

Schmitt has sued to stop the mask orders in both St. Louis County and St. Louis City. The temporary restraining order, or TRO, applies only to the county mandate. The overall lawsuit against both orders argues they’re unconstitutional and arbitrary, but have been found to include errors.

The attorney general has said he will also sue over Kansas City’s order. The Kansas City Council has made no attempt to overrule Mayor Quinton Lucas’s decision to reimpose the mandate, making it unlikely Schmitt could obtain a TRO against the Kansas City order on the same grounds.