The Oregon Supreme Court this evening temporarily stayed a preliminary injunction issued this morning in Baker County Circuit Court that determined Gov. Kate Brown's executive orders related to COVID-19 were no longer in effect.
The specific issue in the Baker County case was whether Brown could, by executive order, prevent Oregonians from attending church.
Judge Matthew Shirtcliff examined the underlying statutory authority that Brown cited when enacting a series of executive orders aimed at compelling Oregonians to social distance.
Those orders ran the gamut from closing schools to telling people to work from home to ordering them not to gather in groups at concert venues, sports events—and churches. Shirtcliff found that Brown's executive authority under a law that deals with public health emergencies only extends for 28 days.
In response to that ruling, state attorneys rushed to file an appeal with the Oregon Supreme Court in Salem.
At 7:45 this evening, as The Oregonian first reported, Presiding Justice Thomas Balmer issued a ruling granting the state's motion.
"This court has considered [the state's] emergency motion and plaintiff's and intervenors' objections," Balmer wrote. "The emergency motion is granted. The trial court's preliminary injunction is stayed pending this court's resolution of [the state's] mandamus petition."
The impact of tonight's ruling is that Brown's orders are still in effect, for now.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs, led by former state Sen. Kevin Mannix (R-Salem), now have until May 22 to respond to the state's motion.
Gov. Brown applauded the court's decision.
"Following swift action by the Oregon Supreme Court, my emergency orders to protect the health and safety of Oregonians will remain in effect statewide while the court hears arguments in this lawsuit," Brown said in a statement. "From the beginning of this crisis, I have worked within my authority, using science and data as my guide, heeding the advice of medical experts. This strategy has saved lives and protected Oregonians from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic."
"The science remains clear: By physically distancing, wearing face coverings, staying home as much as possible and only gradually reopening our communities we can save lives and keep Oregonians safe," Brown added.
"We all look forward to visiting our loved ones in nursing homes, sending our children to school, and going to the grocery store without fear of spreading this disease. But the simple fact remains, COVID-19 is here in Oregon, and lives are at stake."