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Dismissed on technicalities | Virginia Supreme Court throws out Chesapeake parents' school mask lawsuit

In short, the case was thrown out because the parents asked for the wrong types of remedies.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — On Monday, the Supreme Court of Virginia threw out a lawsuit filed by a group of Chesapeake parents against Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

The parents, who have students in Chesapeake schools, filed the suit back in January. They sought to have the court throw out Youngkin's Executive Order 2, which made mask-wearing at public schools optional.

The lawsuit alleged Youngkin was overstepping his bounds as a governor to give that order.

In the opinion issued by the Virginia Supreme Court, the justices dismissed the case, essentially saying the lawsuit asked for solutions the justices couldn't provide.

The opinion said the proposed solution of "prohibition" was used in the wrong context. That is usually an action that one high court takes against a lower court, so it wouldn't apply to the governor or the school board.

The group of parents also asked for a writ of mandamus. That kind of order goes from a court to a public official, requiring the official to comply with "a clear and unequivocal duty." 

The opinion said that apart from Youngkin himself, the other subjects of this case wouldn't be "public officials" that qualify for that order; and Youngkin couldn't be ordered by writ of mandamus because executing laws requires discretion.

In short, the case was thrown out because the parents asked for the wrong types of remedies.

A footnote to the opinion noted that "by this dismissal, we offer no opinion on the legality of EO 2 or any other issue pertaining to petitioners’ claims."

State Attorney General Jason Miyares took to Twitter to celebrate this decision.

Here's a statement his office issued Monday:

Today, the Supreme Court of Virginia rejected a challenge out of the City of Chesapeake to Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order Number 2. The Governor and I are pleased with today’s ruling. At the beginning of this pandemic, Governor Northam used his broad emergency powers to close places of worship, private businesses, and schools and impose a statewide mask mandate. Nearly two years later, we have better risk mitigation strategies and vaccines, and we know much more about the efficacy of requiring children to wear masks all day. We agree with the Court's decision and will continue to defend the Executive Order. This is a victory for Virginia families.

The decision to throw out this lawsuit so far hasn't affected another case over Youngkin's mask mandate executive order.

School boards for Alexandria, Arlington County, Richmond, Fairfax County, Falls Church, Hampton, and Prince William County filed a separate lawsuit challenging Youngkin's ability to issue an executive order making school masks optional.

In that case, a circuit court judge sided with the school boards and put a temporary halt on Youngkin's executive order.

Miyares has said that he will appeal the circuit court decision.

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