OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — UPDATE: 1/25/22 3:00 PM
Douglas County District Court Judge Shelly Stratman denied a motion on Tuesday to impose a temporary injunction on Omaha's mask mandate, meaning the mandate will stand.
In her conclusion, Stratman noted that a temporary injunction is only a temporary order while litigation continues.
She also said, "While this matter is a weighty one, it is not simple. There are no previous cases analyzing the statutes and ordinances involved in this context."
She added that as litigation progresses, governing bodies such as the city council have the power to amend or alter ordinances that would nullify the health director's mask requirement.
A statement on the ruling from Attorney General Doug Peterson read in part, “Public officials have only the authority that the law gives them, and Dr. Huse does not have the power to single-handedly issue her mandate.”
He further said, “Although we disagree with the court’s ruling denying our request to immediately stop Dr. Huse’s mandate, we recognize that courts set a high bar for such requests. They will not grant them unless they think the issues are clear. A very important question still needs to be resolved in this case. That question is whether our laws allow one unaccountable official to unilaterally impose these kinds of mandates on individuals and businesses backed by the threat of fines or imprisonment.”
Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse also issued a statement on the ruling.
"We felt we were on solid legal ground and we’re pleased with the judge’s decision. The Health Department has and will continue to work tirelessly in this battle against COVID-19, and we hope that with everyone’s cooperation we can soon return to normal," wrote Huse.
This comes after Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse issued a mask mandate two weeks ago. A lawsuit from the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office was quickly filed, saying Huse lacked the authority to issue a mandate and attempted to impose an injunction that would lift the mandate until a full trial could take place.
The state argued on Monday that a mandate can only be brought by the city council or the county health director, and state approval is needed for a county to issue a mandate.
Huse's attorneys said she has special powers granted to her specifically by the City of Omaha for a mandate.
"She claims authority to issue these emergency measures as a City of Omaha health director, but she has no such power," said Solicitor General Jim Campbell, Nebraska Attorney General's Office, on Monday.
Huse's attorney, Ed Fox, says otherwise. "She was acting only under authority that was validly granted to her under the City of Omaha."