Judge hears arguments on masking lawsuit, no decision yet

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.–Attorneys on both sides of a lawsuit involving Springfield’s masking ordinance were in federal court Monday, August 31, 2020.  

The case of Rachel Shelton versus the City of Springfield is being heard by Judge Douglas Harpool. 

Harpool decided to only focus on a temporary restraining order requested by Kristi Fulnecky, Rachel Shelton’s attorney in the hearing today. 

Fulnecky is arguing Springfield’s masking ordinance, which took effect July 16th and is set to expire on October 13th, violates her client’s right to privacy and first amendment rights of freedom of expression and freedom to practice religion.  

Fulnecky claims her client suffers from claustrophobia and has struggled to find businesses that will allow her inside to shop without wearing a mask. She also noted she is not able to attend religious services due to the ordinance.  

Fulnecky told Judge Harpool there is not enough compelling interest for City Council to enact the ordinance, citing a low death rate and the Jacobson vs. Massachusetts case of 1905 involving small pox vaccination and the power governments have to protect the public’s health. 

City attorney Chris Hoeman called Springfield-Greene County Health Department Director Clay Goddard to testify.  

Goddard spoke on the benefits of masking when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID-19. He cited evidence of decrease in cases after the masking ordinance took effect, with a caveat of cases from assisted living facilities and cases within the Greene County Jail. 

Hoeman argues it is up to each business, not the city, to deny customers from entering the store without a mask, citing Springfield’s ordinance has exemptions for those certain medical conditions.  

Judge Harpool asked both attorneys whether there are any precedents for this specific case.  

Both Fulnecky and Hoeman agree, there have been no cases in history that have found whether required masking is constitutional or unconstitutional.  

The hearing ended with Judge Harpool taking the case under advisement. He told the court he would try to decide on the temporary restraining order in the next couple days. 

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