FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Claiming Kentucky is waging “a life-and-death battle” against the coronavirus, Gov. Andy Beshear has asked separate courts to uphold some of his executive actions to combat COVID-19, including his order requiring most people to wear face masks.
The Democratic governor’s court filings Tuesday came as coronavirus cases have surged in Kentucky, as in many other states. His aggressive response opens new fronts in an escalating legal fight with some prominent Republican leaders, including Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Beshear asked a Franklin County Circuit Court judge to declare that he acted within his authority when requiring most Kentuckians to wear masks in public.
He asked the state Supreme Court to strike down rulings that blocked his orders restricting crowd sizes at Florence Speedway and at agritourism sites as well as class sizes at day care centers.
Both filings declared the state is embroiled in “a life-and-death battle against COVID-19 — the gravest threat to public health in over a century. The stakes could not be higher to Kentuckians.”
Cameron criticized Beshear’s court filings Wednesday. Regarding the mask issue, Cameron said the governor was “trying to circumvent standard legal procedure.” The attorney general said a hearing is scheduled this week in another circuit court on the legality of the mandatory mask order.
Cameron has asked a Scott County Circuit judge to rule on whether the mask order complied with state law. Cameron has said his request was not about the appropriateness of wearing masks, saying recently he sees them as an “important tool” in fighting the pandemic.
Beshear’s legal team framed the stakes as enormous in defending the mask order.
“If members of the public refuse to wear a face covering while in public settings and in settings where social distancing is impractical, the spread of the coronavirus will increase, the reopening and rebuilding of Kentucky’s economy will be jeopardized, more Kentuckians will get sick, and unfortunately, more Kentuckians will die,” the governor’s court filing said.
The governor’s court document also warned that Cameron’s decision to question the validity of the mask order will impede its enforcement and compliance.
Meanwhile, Beshear asked the state Supreme Court to validate some of his orders restricting crowd sizes. The request comes after his setbacks in lower courts. Circuit judges in Boone and Scott counties blocked the governor’s virus-related orders affecting the Florence Speedway, agritourism businesses and child care centers. A state appeals court judge kept those rulings in place.
Now, Beshear is looking to accelerate the case by bypassing the rest of the intermediate Court of Appeals and having the state’s highest court to take it up.
“A delayed judicial holding vindicating the governor’s actions is no remedy at all for those Kentuckians who may become sick, who may spread the disease to others, or who may die while the restraining orders remain in effect,” Beshear’s filing said, referring to the court court orders.
Cameron rebuked the governor for his legal tactic.
“Instead of taking a hard look at why his executive orders continue to be struck down by courts at every level, the governor would rather bypass the normal legal process to try and secure a favorable ruling by suing three of the judges who ruled against him,” Cameron said.