DES MOINES, Iowa – A two members of a three-judge panel consisting of Judges Duane Benton, Jane Kelly, and Ralph Erickson, in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled to vacate a district court’s injunction of Iowa’s mask mandate ban in part because it was too broad.
Judges Benton and Kelly ruled that the Plaintiffs, Arc of Iowa, and parents of disabled children who joined the lawsuit against Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo, and ten Iowa school districts are entitled to a preliminary injunction stating that mask requirements are reasonable accommodations required by federal disability law to protect the rights of the plaintiffs’ children.
They noted that the injunction imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pratt “sweeps more broadly than necessary to remedy Plaintiffs’ injuries.”
On the last day of the 2021 legislative session, the Iowa Legislature passed, and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill prohibiting schools, cities, and counties from implementing mask mandates. Pratt’s ruling effectively prohibited the state from enforcing the mask mandate ban in any school district.
“Plaintiffs are entitled to a preliminary injunction but the district court abused its discretion by entering an overbroad one. This Court reverses as to the scope of the injunction. An injunction must be tailored to remedy the specific harm suffered,” Judge Benton wrote in the majority’s opinion.
“Plaintiffs are not harmed by the absence of mask requirements at schools their children do not attend. Further, to the extent that some schools in Iowa do not encounter anyone whose disabilities require the schools to make others wear masks, Section 280.31 may prohibit those schools from imposing mask requirements without violating federal disability law,” he added.
“By barring Defendants Reynolds and Lebo from enforcing Section 280.31 in all contexts, the Court prevented them from enforcing Iowa’s law against schools that encounter no one with disabilities that require masks as a reasonable accommodation. This sweeps broader than the relief necessary to remedy Plaintiffs’ injuries and is an abuse of discretion,” Benton’s opinion reads.
Judge Erickson wrote in a dissenting opinion that an injunction was premature.
“(B)y conclusively determining that mask requirements are reasonable accommodations required by federal disability law, the district court broadens our law and fails to give appropriate weight to the requirement that ‘governmental policies implemented through legislation and developed through presumptively reasoned democratic processes are entitled to a higher degree of deference and should not be enjoined lightly,'” he wrote.
“I do not believe face masks are the equivalent of wheelchair ramps and I do not believe that we should automatically excuse exhaustion and assume the process or relief would be inadequate,” Erickson argued. “This case is about children’s ability to receive instruction while attending school. Courts should not act so quickly to intervene in the resolution of conflicts which arise in the daily operation of school systems.”
The 8th Circuit Court ruling remands the case back to Judge Pratt to narrowly tailor his injunction to apply to the plaintiffs’ schools.
Read the ruling below:CTA8 mask opinion