Judge denies filing requesting Gov. Edwards to follow House petition blocking COVID-19 executive orders

Petition ruled unconstitutional

Judge rules petition against governor to halt COVID-19 restriction orders is unconstitutional

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - In a court hearing Thursday, Nov. 12, a Louisiana judge denied the Speaker of the House’s request for Governor John Bel Edwards to follow a petition that would have prevented him from issuing a new COVID-19 executive order.

“The mandamus was very specific in its prayer. They asked for a mandamus to terminate JBE 134 2020 and determine it null and void,” Judge William Morvant said. “As of November 6, it expired after the passage of time. There is nothing to terminate. JBE 134 no longer exists.”

The petition, signed by members of the House, put a seven-day hold on any new orders from the governor. It also ended the governor’s state of emergency declaration.

The governor sued the House, saying the petition was unconstitutional and issued a new executive order anyway.

That petition has since expired. Judge Morvant ruled the House petition that would’ve restricted the governor’s ability to file new orders and would’ve ended the declaration of emergency for seven days is unconstitutional. The judge said one chamber cannot enact, repeal, or veto a law, saying it requires both chambers. He also said it’s not up to the House to fix its mistakes.

Attorney Liz Murrill, representing Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office, says it’s “very unusual” for the governor to sue the legislature.

“There’s a lot that’s unusual in this case,” Judge Morvant replied. “There’s a lot unusual in 2020.”

The attorney general’s office is arguing whether that new order violated the House’s petition.

Landry issued the following statement after Thursday’s hearing:

“Our government is built on a system of checks and balances. The Legislature makes laws; the Governor enforces them. Today, the Court effectively ruled the Governor may make law without any legislative oversight - this turns Louisiana into a dictatorship under King Edwards. It is problematic when a judge rewrites the law from the bench. That seems to be occurring more and more and adds to the current turmoil we find our country in. This case and its outcome affects all Louisiana citizens, their livelihoods, and their safety. We will appeal Judge Morvant’s rulings and pray the Supreme Court will uphold the checks and balances upon which our government was founded and has been ruled.”

Gov. Edwards also released a statement Thursday in response to the ruling, saying:

"Today is a victory for public health in the state of Louisiana and for all of those people, from our health care heroes, including our doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to our scientists and researchers, who are fighting every day to slow the spread of COVID and save lives here. The petition signed by some members of one chamber of Louisiana’s Legislature could not terminate the emergency order because the petition was based on a law the violated the Louisiana Constitution. Judge Morvant ruled that the House of Representatives cannot act by itself on behalf of the full Legislature. I have long said the law some members of the House were attempting to use is unconstitutional and I am pleased the judge agreed.

What today’s hearing means for the people and businesses of Louisiana is that our state remains in Phase 3, including with a statewide mask mandate in effect, based on my most recent proclamation. This represents our best chance at slowing the spread of COVID in Louisiana and has and will save lives. I will continue to work with public health experts, scientists and doctors on strategies and mitigation measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana.

Right now, we are seeing frightening surges in COVID cases, test positivity, hospitalizations and deaths around the country, including in our neighboring states. Louisianans must not let down their guard, and must continue practicing social distance, wearing masks, washing their hands and limiting their contact when outside of their households. We will get through this together, and I am deeply thankful for the hard work of all Louisianans, who have already bent the curve twice this year.”

WAFB’s Austin Kemker will have more on later editions of 9News.

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