Elkhorn Baptist Church v. BrownAnnotate this Case
The Oregon Governor issued executive orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. Because the virus spread through close personal contact and through the air, some of the orders have restricted the size of gatherings and required that people maintain specified distances between themselves and others. Relatedly, other orders have closed schools and businesses. The restrictions have had substantial consequences for individuals and entire economies. "It is unknown how long those consequences will last, just as it is unknown how long it will be before there is a cure or vaccine for COVID-19." Plaintiffs Elkhorn Baptist Church and several other churches and individual churchgoers, challenged the executive orders that the Governor issued, asking the circuit court to enjoin the enforcement of the Governor’s orders while their civil action was pending. They based their request on their claim that the orders have expired by operation of law. Among other things, they argued that the orders violated a statutory time limit. The circuit court issued the requested preliminary injunction. It did so based on its conclusion that, as plain- tiffs argued, the duration of the orders had exceeded a statutory time limit. The Governor sought mandamus relief from the Oregon Supreme Court to vacate the preliminary injunction. The Supreme Court concluded the circuit court erred in concluding that the Governor’s executive orders violated a statutory time limit as plaintiffs had argued. "The circuit court’s statutory analysis cannot be reconciled with the statutory text and context, and is directly at odds with how the legislature intended the statute to apply." Because the circuit court’s conclusion about the statutory time limit was fundamental to its issuance of the preliminary injunction, the Supreme Court deemed it necessary to vacate the preliminary injunction.