A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Springfield and eight council members over its masking ordinance Wednesday, striking down the only legal challenge to the Springfield face covering requirement.
In the lawsuit, Springfield resident Rachel Shelton’s attorney Kristi Fulnecky argued that Springfield’s ordinance, which requires people older than 11 to wear face coverings in public, was unconstitutional because Shelton had claustrophobia and feared harassment for not wearing a face covering in public. She also did not want to wear one at church.
But U.S. District Judge Douglas Harpool wrote that Shelton failed to show the ordinance harmed her, in part because she was exempted from the ordinance due to her medical condition.
“Here, (Shelton’s) amended complaint contains numerous hypothetical, rhetorical and argumentative statements but fails to allege specific facts demonstrating the ordinance violates (her) constitutional rights,” Harpool wrote. “Plaintiff effectively asks the court to second guess the wisdom of, and necessity for, policy decisions of the elected officials of the city of Springfield in enacting and ordinance from which she is exempted.”
In a news release, Fulnecky wrote she and her client “stand firm in our belief that the ordinance injures not only (Shelton), but all citizens and the constitution of the United States of America.”
“I applaud my client for taking a stand against this injustice” Fulnecky wrote. “While many have spoken out, she has taken action.”
The dismissal was not entirely surprising.
In a September filing, Harpool wrote the lawsuit was “unlikely” to succeed after denying a request to temporarily suspend the ordinance while the case moved through court.
Public health requirements like masking have been upheld elsewhere as well.
The U.S. Constitution provides that all powers not given to the federal government are reserved for the states, and nearly 200 years of court precedent have established that among those reserved powers are powers to protect the public health, including the ability to isolate and quarantine the sick.
Quarantine laws, Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in 1824, “form a portion of that immense mass of legislation which embraces everything within the territory of a State not surrendered to the (federal) government.”
U.S. District Judge Stephen Clark, a Trump appointee, also affirmed that idea in a ruling earlier this year against business owners who challenged stay-at-home orders in St. Louis and St. Louis County.
Katie Kull covers local government for the News-Leader. Got a story to tell? Give her a call at 417-408-1025 or email her at email@example.com. You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.