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La. Supreme Court returns virus rules dispute to lower court

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana Supreme Court on Monday sent a legal feud between Gov. John Bel Edwards and House Republicans over coronavirus restrictions back to district court, saying the judge ruled too quickly that the state law the GOP used to try to nullify the restrictions was unconstitutional.

The justices wrote in their opinion that Baton Rouge Judge William Morvant should have held a full hearing on other issues raised in the lawsuit over the Democratic governor’s statewide mask mandate, business restrictions and crowd size limits aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19.

“We find the district court acted prematurely in reaching the issue of constitutionality,” the justices wrote.

The high court’s decision was a technical one that didn’t weigh in on the merits of the lawsuit, the governor’s regulations or the legal maneuver used by the House GOP. Instead, it requires Morvant to hold another hearing in the case.

The Edwards administration intends to continue enforcing its COVID-19 rules while the case is pending.

In October, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and 64 other GOP lawmakers in the House — represented by Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry — invoked a never-before-used process in Louisiana law that allows a majority of legislators in either the House or Senate to sign a petition to jettison a governor’s emergency declaration.

Edwards sued Schexnayder and lawmakers. The governor argued the petition process used by House Republicans violated the Louisiana Constitution, and he said the lawmakers also didn’t follow the law’s requirement that they consult with the state’s “public health authority” before issuing the petition.

Morvant ruled on Nov. 12 for the governor, saying the petition was unconstitutional because Edwards’ emergency rules have the force of law and couldn’t be blocked by an action of one legislative body.

The Louisiana Supreme Court said that decision was premature. The justices said that Morvant should have first considered Edwards’ argument that the House GOP didn’t consult with the public health authority as required by the law.

“For well over a century, this court has consistently refrained from entertaining questions as to the constitutionality of laws except where that determination is essential to the decision,” the court wrote.

One of the seven justices, John Weimer, disagreed with his colleagues. He said both the House speaker and the governor have requested that the court decide the constitutional question, and he said the context of the current coronavirus public health emergency raises the urgency of the issue.

“Given the context and conditions under which this case arises, I believe this court has a responsibility to address the constitutional issue presented and resolve it: a task squarely within this court’s province and duty,” Weimer wrote in his dissent.

East Texas teen arrested for allegedly posting ‘fake hit list’ on social media

HOOKS, Texas (KTAL/KSHV) — An East Texas high school student has been arrested after they allegedly posted a “fake hit list” on social media.

According to the Hooks Police Department, on Monday a 15-year-old was booked into the Bowie County Juvenile Justice Center and charged with Felony False Alarm or Report involving a Public Primary or Secondary School.

On Thursday, Dec. 3 Hooks High School was placed on lockdown following a “suspicous persons” incident reported to HPD that was off campus and unrelated to the school.

School administrators began investigating after allegations surfaced about a student having a hit list and was threatening to shoot up the school. After looking into the matter they found there was no actual threat nor was there a hit list.

On Thursday, Dec. 10 a parent posted a list that included the names of several students on social media. This led to mass hysteria at the high school and several students did not attend school on Friday, Dec. 11.

HPD investigators later determined that the posted list had been fabricated by a student and provided to their parent in hopes of not having to attend school.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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