Supreme Court of Virginia dismisses lawsuit challenging Gov. Youngkin’s mask order

Lawsuit was filed by a group of parents in Chesapeake

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin

LEESBURG, Va. – The Supreme Court of Virginia has dismissed a challenge to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates.

The case was dismissed Monday and “by this dismissal, we offer no opinion on the legality of Executive Order No. 2 or any other issue pertaining to petitioners’ claims,” according to the dismissal issued by the Court.

This case was brought against the governor by a group of parents from Chesapeake and the governor’s office had previously asked the court to dismiss the case.

[LIST: Which schools are requiring masks and which are not across Southwest, Central Virginia]

The Supreme Court ruling only dismisses the petition - submitted by a group of parents in Chesapeake - that sought an unconventional form of relief called a writ of mandamus. The court ruled that writs of mandamus are reserved for extraordinary circumstances, which it said don’t exist in this case.

Still, Youngkin and Miyares each issued statements calling the ruling a victory for parents in Virginia.

“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.”

Attorney General Jason Miyares on dismissal of Castillo v. Youngkin

The dismissal comes only three days after an Arlington Circuit Court judge granted seven school districts a temporary restraining order against Executive Order No. 2.

Kevin Martingayle, a lawyer who filed the petition on behalf of the Chesapeake parents, said the ruling is only a procedural defeat, and noted language in the court’s opinion suggesting that local school boards have “a degree of discretion” under state law on whether to impose mandates.

“This is far from over,” Martingayle said in a statement.

The ruling comes three days after an Arlington county judge issued a temporary injunction barring enforcement of Youngkin’s executive order while the case proceeds. In that case, the judge ruled preliminarily that Youngkin does not have the authority given to local school boards under state law to decide what steps are necessary and practicable in keeping students and staff safe during in-person learning.

A third lawsuit is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in Loudoun County, where parents opposed to the mask mandate are suing the local school board for refusing to enact Youngkin’s executive order.

Youngkin issued the order on his first day in office last month. Since then, some school boards have eliminated mask mandates that were required under the previous administration, while others have defied his order, arguing it usurps local authority and dismantles a policy that has worked well in reducing transmission of the coronavirus.