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Judge strikes down limits on Kansas officials' COVID powers

Kansas Capitol.jpg
Posted at 3:23 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 16:23:06-04

TOPEKA, Kan. — A trial-court judge in Kansas' most populous county on Thursday struck down as unconstitutional a state law requiring unusually speedy legal hearings for people challenging mask requirements and other COVID-19 restrictions.

Johnson County District Judge David Hauber's ruling also struck down limits on state and local officials' power to impose restrictions on businesses, schools and public gatherings and greater oversight for the Republican-controlled Legislature over Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's actions.

But top GOP lawmakers on June 15 ended a state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic, so that many of those provisions had little practical effect.

The law allowed people to file grievances with cities, counties and local school boards if they objected to mask mandates or other restrictions. The law required a hearing within three days and a decision within 10 days. If someone then filed a lawsuit, courts had three days to hold a hearing and 10 to issue a ruling.

Some critics said the law also set legal standards favoring people challenging restrictions.

Hauber ruled that the law ran afoul of the Kansas Constitution by denying local officials due legal process and violating the separation of powers between the courts and the Legislature.