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Elkhorn Baptist Church v. Brown (Oregon Supreme Court, June 12, 2020): The Oregon Supreme Court held the trial court committed fundamental legal error in preliminarily blocking Governor Brown’s COVID-19 executive orders (EOs) promoting public health and safety. Churches and individuals sought to block all of Governor Brown’s COVID-19 EOs on grounds they had expired by “operation of law.” The trial court agreed, reasoning that the EOs were issued under Oregon Revised Statutes (O.R.S.) Chapter 433 (public health emergencies declarations), which contains a 28-day time limit. The Oregon Supreme Court, however, concluded the EOs were issued under a different statutory authority—O.R.S. Chapter 401 (authorizing the Governor to declare a state of emergency). Such declarations are not subject to the 28-day time limit. Further, Chapter 401 authorizes the Governor to utilize all of the state’s police powers, including “the power to regulate conduct for public health and safety.” In comparison, a purpose of Chapter 403 (public health emergencies) is it to provide the Governor with an “additional tool” to address public health crises; nothing in the chapters indicate that the Governor’s powers to declare a state of emergency is limited by the public health emergencies chapter. Consistent with legislative history, both provisions are “intended to work, and do work, together.” Read the decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – July 15, 2020.

View all cases under “Public Health Emergency: Legal Preparedness & Response.”