Shortly before midnight yesterday evening, the Illinois Appellate Court for the 4th District issued an order in the pending Sangamon County cases (Austin and Allen) pertaining to the appeals by the State and multiple school district defendants of the temporary restraining order (“TRO”) entered by Judge Grischow on February 4th. The Appellate Court held that the appeals were rendered moot by the expiration of the ISBE and IDPH emergency rules at issue in the case and, as a result, the Appellate Court dismissed the appeal.
The Appellate Court’s order includes language that, at first read, supports the authority of school districts to develop and enforce COVID mitigating measures for their districts. Specifically, the Appellate Court found that the TRO did not have the effect of restraining school districts. On this issue, the Court stated: “We note the language of the TRO in no way restrains school districts from acting independently from the executive orders or the IDPH in creating provisions addressing COVID-19. Thus, it does not appear the school districts are temporarily restrained from acting by the court’s TRO.”
The decision is unclear as to the status of the Governor’s Executive Orders. As is noted by the dissent, “as it stands, the majority’s decision leaves open the question of whether the circuit court properly enjoined the enforcement of the executive orders.”
Because TROs are a preliminary proceeding and do not constitute a final decision or address the ultimate merits of the claims, procedurally, the Austin and Allen cases will continue to progress before the Sangamon County Circuit Court.
We are and will continue to be in regular contact with those ECB&S clients who are named defendants in these cases about the implications of this appellate ruling and the pending Austin and Allen cases. For those ECB&S clients who are not named defendants in these cases, in our view the likelihood of State enforcement of Executive Order 2021-18 and the IDPH/ISBE joint guidance documents issued on February 5th against districts that want to move to “mask optional” at this time is remote. We have shared other potential issues attendant to moving to “mask optional” with you in the recent past, but feel free to contact us to discuss your individual circumstances or concerns about a change in district procedures.
We will continue to keep you apprised of all legal developments relative to COVID mitigation measures. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact any of our attorneys if you have questions about the Appellate Court’s ruling or your current return-to-school plan/COVID mitigation measures.