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Oregon Supreme Court hits pause on judge's ruling; Gov. Brown's restrictions remain in place for now

Gov. Kate Brown's coronavirus restrictions will remain in effect while the court hears arguments in the case.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Supreme Court late Monday night put a Baker County circuit court judge’s ruling that the state’s COVID-19 restrictions are “null and void” on hold while the court considers an emergency appeal by the state.

The court granted Gov. Kate Brown’s emergency motion for a stay on the injunction, announced earlier Monday.

“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.

A judge in rural Oregon tossed out statewide coronavirus restrictions imposed by Gov. Brown, saying she didn’t seek the Legislature's approval to extend the stay-at-home orders beyond a 28-day limit.

Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff issued his opinion in response to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by 10 churches around Oregon that argued the state's social-distancing directives were unconstitutional.

In a seven-page opinion, Shirtcliff wrote that the damage to Oregonians and their livelihood was greater than the dangers presented by the coronavirus.

Brown filed paperwork within hours seeking an emergency review by the Oregon Supreme Court and a hold on the ruling. 

"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. This strategy has saved lives and protected Oregonians from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Brown.

“There are no shortcuts for us to return to life as it was before this pandemic. Moving too quickly could return Oregon to the early days of this crisis, when we braced ourselves for hospitals to be overfilled and ventilators in short supply."

Both sides have until Friday to submit legal briefs. There is no timetable for the court to make a decision once it hears the appeal.

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