Shelby County government wants governor’s executive order ruled invalid

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 5:15 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County is filing suit against Governor Bill Lee.

Shelby County government filed a lawsuit against the governor in federal court, asking a judge to deem Lee’s latest executive order invalid.

The 13-page lawsuit lists three ways an executive order by Lee, allowing parents to opt out of mask mandates in schools is invalid.

The lawsuit says the executive order is unconstitutional by going against the due process clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the education clause of the Tennessee Constitution.

It also says it violates the recent American Rescue Plan Act that sends federal funds to local school districts.

“But [ARPA] requires that they have adequate mask policies,” said University of Memphis law professor, Steve Mulroy. “It says Governor Lee’s order interferes with that.”

Mulroy said the lawsuit is not frivolous but it’s going to be up to Shelby County attorneys to prove their case.

He says a governor can issue an executive order if the guidance comes from the constitution or state statute.

“In this case, there is a state statute that gives the governor emergency powers under certain situations, including an epidemic,” Mulroy said. “But you can argue if this is an appropriate use of that power.”

Shelby County Schools says it’s still mandating masks in class while it reviews the legality of Lee’s executive order.

Memphis teacher, Tiffany Crow, spoke on a panel with Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Jason Martin, Friday. She supports litigation to prevent an opt out from masks by parents.

“I think it’s a show of support and a necessity right now,” Crow said.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris says the lawsuit needed to be filed to keep kids safe and productive in school.

“We’re really, really optimistic everyone will have what they need to keep kids safe and in the classroom,” Harris said.

Lee’s office says it does not comment on pending litigation like this one.

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