Kentucky Supreme Court will consider Beshear’s COVID-19 orders in light of new laws

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Jack Brammer
·2 min read
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The Kentucky Supreme Court has decided to take up two legal cases involving Gov. Andy Beshear’s powers to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and other emergencies and hear them at the same time June 10.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. signed orders Thursday night for the state’s highest court to consider cases from Franklin and Scott circuit courts. He said a time for the June 10 hearing will be set later.

The Franklin case involves Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s appeal of Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd’s decision to temporarily block four legislative measures the General Assembly enacted this year that curb Beshear’s emergency powers.

The Scott case involves Beshear’s appeal of Circuit Judge Brian Privett’s ruling to temporarily block the state from enforcing some of Beshear’s executive COVID-19 orders against several restaurants and breweries.

Minton said all seven members of the high court agreed to hear the two cases at the same time “for purposes of judicial economy.”

The state Supreme Court last year unanimously ruled that Beshear’s orders were legal but that was before the legislature passed laws earlier this year restricting the governor’s powers.

Attorneys in the cases had said they expected the recent cases to end up in the Supreme Court.

Shepherd earlier this month temporarily blocked House Joint Resolution 77, keeping Beshear’s COVID-19 restrictions in effect, including the mask mandate. The resolution specifies which of Beshear’s COVID-19 orders would remain in place if the legislature wins its legal fight against him.

Shepherd had temporarily blocked three other laws earlier this year curbing Beshear’s powers: Senate Bill 1, which limits Beshear ability to issue orders during a state of emergency to 30 days unless extended by the General Assembly; House Bill 1, which allows businesses, schools, nonprofits and churches to stay open if they meet COVID-19 guidelines set by either the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Kentucky’s executive branch, whichever is least restrictive; and Senate Bill 2, a companion bill to SB 1 to give the legislature more power over administrative regulations issued during an emergency.

Privett’s preliminary injunction came in a a lawsuit brought by Goodwood Brewing Company, doing business as Louisville Taproom; Frankfort Brewpub and Lexington Brewpub; Trindy’s in Georgetown; and Kelmaro, doing business as The Dundee Tavern, in Louisville.

Privett said his order means Beshear can’t issue or enforce new restrictions against those specific businesses.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals on Thursday stayed Privett’s temporary injunction that had allowed the businesses to not follow the measures Beshear had put in place to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Oliver Dunford, an attorney for the businesses, said Friday, “For now, the governor’s orders remain in effect. The businesses have to follow them. We will see what the Kentucky Supreme Court has to say about them.”