Ore. Supreme Court puts hold on “null and void” ruling against Brown
Governor Katie Brown | Willamette Week

Ore. Supreme Court puts hold on “null and void” ruling against Brown


Jonathan Lockwood


Oregon Supreme Court puts hold on “null and void” judge’s ruling against Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 executive order

PORTLAND, Ore.—Late Monday, the Oregon Supreme Court put a hold on an eastern Oregon judge’s ruling that declared Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 executive orders “null and void.”

ReopenAmerica Project Founder Jonathan Lockwood issued the following statement:

“This hold was expected, and we know what the Oregon Supreme Court is likely to rule when it considers the state’s full petition to dismiss the ‘null and void’ ruling. Court battles aside, we need executive and legislative leadership and management of this crisis, and, we need to get the state back up and running so that we can save lives and livelihoods. We should be united in our efforts to reopen, lives depend on it. We have seen projections on deaths of despair and we have seen the full reality of what a planetary pandemic entails. There is no time to waste on defeating COVID-19 and reopening America.”

State Supreme Court Presiding Justice Thomas A. Balmer issued the ruling at 7:45 pm., granting the state’s emergency motion after reviewing briefs from both sides. Per, The Oregonian the hold remains in effect “until the high court considers the state’s full petition to dismiss the Baker County Circuit judge’s preliminary injunction.”

“Balmer is giving the plaintiffs until Friday to file any responses and said the court would take the matter under advisement, with no set timetable for a decision,” reported Maxine Bernstein.

The hold was placed on a ruling by Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew B. Shirtcliff that declared “null and void” the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders, claiming that the orders exceeded a 28-day limit passed by state lawmakers. Shirtcliff’s ruling that indicated the governor’s orders were no longer valid came in response to a suit filed by 10 churches and state lawmakers against the governor.

The governor’s office quickly responded to the Baker judge’s “null and void” ruling, appealing to the Oregon Supreme Court to protect her emergency orders. Brown argued Shirtcliff went out-of-bounds and charged that his legal reasoning was flawed.

“Following swift action by the Oregon Supreme Court, my emergency orders to protect the health and safety of Oregonians will remain in effect statewide while the court hears arguments in this lawsuit,” Brown said in a statement. ”From the beginning of this crisis, I have worked within my authority, using science and data as my guide, heeding the advice of medical experts.”

“Shirtcliff granted a preliminary injunction to the churches, finding they had shown ‘irreparable harm’ from the deprivation of the right to freely exercise their religions,” The Oregonian reported.

“The governor’s orders are not required for public safety when plaintiffs can continue to utilize social distancing and safety protocols at larger gatherings involving spiritual worship,” Shirtcliff ruled.

He added: “Plaintiffs have shown that they will be harmed by deprivation of the constitutional right to freely exercise their religion. Other plaintiffs have also shown great economic harm to their businesses and their ability to seek livelihood.”

“The Baker County judge found that the churches can take necessary social distancing precautions, just as grocery stores and other essential businesses have done. He also ruled that the injunction was in the public’s interest, allowing people the right to freely worship and the ability to restore economic viability,” Bernstein wrote.

“This court understands that the current pandemic creates an unprecedented crisis in the state as well as in our country,” Shirtcliff said.


ReopenAmerica Project is a nonpartisan coalition of lawmakers, business leaders, health care workers, influencers and citizens who believe in a sound, data-driven and balanced approach to getting America back up and running. ReopenAmerica Project is a communications platform that shares commentary, data and news to forward an open conversation about public health and economic policies, rulemaking and executive decisions. 

ReopenAmerica Project has been mentioned in The New York Times, the UK Independent, Ore.-based Willamette Week, and more.

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