Hearing on mandate lawsuit vacated
With multiple pending court matters being introduced late last week, parents of students in Waterloo, Columbia, Valmeyer and Red Bud, along with over 140 other districts, must now wait longer for a decision.
As the Republic-Times previously reported, the large miscellaneous remedy complaint filed by attorney Thomas DeVore names Gov. JB Pritzker, the Illinois State Board of Education and State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala and Illinois Department of Public Health and its director Dr. Ngozi Ezike as defendants.
The suit addresses questions of masking, exclusions, quarantines and who has the authority to issue such measures.
Originally, Macoupin County Judge April Troemper was assigned to the case and was set to host a temporary restraining order hearing this Friday, Nov. 5. With DeVore and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul both filing motions with the Illinois Supreme Court, the hearing date has now been vacated.
Rob Swain, an attorney representing Waterloo and other school districts named in the suit, explained both DeVore and Raoul wish to have similar cases, namely on issues of school masking, consolidated so they can all be ruled by one judge, yet they differ on who they believe should hear the case.
In essence, the Illinois Supreme Court will not be deciding on issues posed in the suit, but may decide who does.
Swain said the latest motions put the Triad school district’s motion for substitution of judge, which he filed as their attorney, “in limbo.”
“Mr. DeVore filed a motion in the Supreme Court to consolidate a handful of cases involving similar issues … all into one big case,” Swain explained. “Mr. DeVore asked the Supreme Court to actually transfer all of those cases in front of Judge Troemper notwithstanding the current motion for substitution. Essentially, the request for substitution of judge would be denied if these cases would all be in front of Judge Troemper.”
Raoul, however, asked the Illinois Supreme Court to have the case heard up north.
“The attorney general also filed the same kind of motion in the Supreme Court to do the exact same thing, to consolidate a bunch of cases all involving student masks, and ask the Supreme Court for the cases to all be put into either Cook County or Sangamon County,” Swain said.
Monroe-Randolph County Regional Superintendent of Schools Kelton Davis said he believes these motions are drawing on politics to secure a more favorable result for each petitioner.
“Politically, you’ve got to think about the judges … some have more progressive or liberal views and some are more conservative,” Davis said. “It was filed in Macoupin County, which is (more likely) to be a conservative judge who is going to be favorable to local control.”
He explained that if moved north, the judge who hears it would be more likely to take a liberal stance.
However, the state Supreme Court may not take action on DeVore’s or Raoul’s petitions.
“The Supreme Court could come in and issue an order that says ‘Yes, we agree that all these cases should be all lumped together, and we think it should be in this county,’ they could decide they don’t want to get involved and say, ‘No, let’s let everything play out the way it is.’ They don’t have to grant it, but they certainly might and if they do, then they will decide where it goes forward,” Swain explained.
Once the Supreme Court makes a decision, should it decide to, then new hearing dates will be assigned with the case’s decided judge.
“There are seven days for other parties to file documents either opposing or supporting these requests, so we know it’ll be at least seven days (from the filing date of Oct. 28), that window will be open, but there is no specific timeline for the Supreme Court to rule,” Swain said. “In cases like this, they usually rule relatively quickly. I would expect they’ll rule within a handful of days, maybe another week or so.”
Davis said he is looking forward to getting some long-awaited answers.
“Your schools are not sad to see this,” Davis said, continuing, “They just want answers. (We) want to move on and do our job. We shouldn’t have to be spending all of our time in the legislative, political and court systems to do our job. All we’ve asked for from day one is ‘Answer these questions’ and we’re going on a long time (without them) since we’ve started this COVID debacle.”