Tonight, Attorney Frank Urbanic notified SoonerPolitics that his client restaurants & taverns won the early round of a lawsuit against the governor & state agencies. The judge blocked the governor's 'rules' for another 6 months, while the civil suit proceeds.
It's a breaking development in taverns & night clubs' battle for their fiscal survival.
Governor Kevin Stitt decided to mandate early closures of dining establishments, claiming that it's in the overnight hours that the covid virus spreads the worst. The judge didn't buy it. When evidence was asked, the governor's office relied only on Google data, and an unproven scenario that everyone who eats and drinks later in the night will be careless to follow protocols to prevent social spread.
Judge Susan Stallings asked why a statewide mask mandate wasn't uniformly implemented? The defense team in this lawsuit said that Google claims a mask mandate is ineffective in slowing the viral spread.
The lawsuit will now proceed to the full case. Up 'til now the courts have simply addressed the judge's decision to order the governor's rules unenforceable until the case is completed in her court. Court injunctions are a tool to prevent harms which would not be recoverable if the plaintiff had to wait until the case is resolved in full litigation.
The plaintiffs say that their business viability is 4already on the brink because of their own safety protocols and govt restrictions over the past 9 months.
Because this case is expected to take longer than what the health experts believe will be the impact of the pandemic, the net result is that the governor's latest order is effectively dead.
This does not prevent the governor from following the proper Health Emergency statutes and calling for a special session to get a 30-day authorization to invoke special agency rules. What the governor seems to have done is an unofficial martial law declaration under the guise of a state of riot or a massive disaster state of emergency.
Two weeks ago, Gov. Stitt replaced his chief legal counsel. The two events (lawsuit and personnel change) may be related?
The Oklahoman has more details of the court testimony. In part, they write;
Stallings, the judge, hammered Assistant Solicitor Randall J. Yates with questions, asking where the state’s evidence was that bars were more of a problem in spreading COVID-19 than other establishments.
The state’s witnesses said; "as people drink, they lose inhibition and engage in risky behavior, such as not wearing masks and not social distancing."
The state also said some of their evidence comes from Google analytics.
The state's Chief Operating Officer, John Budd, testified that Google had massive amounts of data and used artificial intelligence to examine three scenarios;