A federal judge on Wednesday denied a petition for a temporary restraining order that would have blocked Gov. Kay Ivey’s statewide mask ordinance and a prohibition on large, non-work gatherings.
U.S District Court Judge Keith Watkins said, essentially, that the plaintiffs in the case had waited too long to file the request. In his order, Watkins said that a key component in determining the necessity of a TRO is “a need for speedy and urgent action to protect a plaintiff’s rights” while the case as a whole works its way through the legal system.
The seven plaintiffs in this case, Watkins noted, didn’t file their complaint until late last month — some five months after the initial ban on large gatherings was issued in May and two months after Ivey, along with State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, issued the mask ordinance.
The time discrepancy, Watkins said, indicated that there was no “imminent irreparable harm” that could come to the plaintiffs without immediate action.
“Plaintiffs waited an impermissible amount of time to seek … a temporary restraining order,” Watkins wrote.
The lawsuit specifically challenges Ivey’s and Harris’s authority to issue health orders that ban all non-work gatherings of more than 25 people, order certain businesses and houses of worship temporarily closed and require that people in public areas in the state wear facial coverings. The plaintiffs claim the orders violate their constitutional rights, specifically their First, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights.
Following the issuing of those orders, the state saw noticeable drops in both COVID-19 positive cases and deaths. So far, the state has more than 140,000 cases and nearly 2,500 deaths.
The lawsuit will move forward, with attorneys for Ivey and Harris expected to file a motion to dismiss in the coming days.
Former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore is representing the plaintiffs.