Attorney: No deal in school mask lawsuit
Negotiations to resolve a lawsuit challenging Connecticut’s requirements that school children wear masks have “broken down” and lawyers for the state are seeking to schedule a hearing this week on their motion to dismiss the case.
Attorneys for a group of parents claiming that masks are harmful to children have asked Superior Court Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher to issue an emergency order halting Connecticut’s school mask requirement.
The two parties tabled an expected court hearing last week in hope of negotiating a resolution in the case. But according to court documents filed by the attorney general’s office Wednesday, the two sides have failed to reach an agreement.
With no resolution in sight, the group’s lawyers, Republican State Representatives Doug Dubitsky and Craig Fishbein, have requested new court dates. In their request for a hearing this week, lawyers for the state said those dates are not until November and suggested the group was dragging its feet.
“Such conduct demonstrates that the Plaintiffs do not actually believe that the [mask requirement] poses any imminent risk of irreparable harm. If they thought it did, they would not have waited a month to file their motion for a temporary injunction, would not have been wholly unprepared with even minimally qualified experts, and would not just this week have inexplicably declined the Court’s offer of a prompt hearing so that they could request one multiple weeks out,” lawyers for the state wrote.
The attorney general’s office is asking Moukawsher to deny the group’s emergency claim that the mask requirement endangers children and to move on to the state’s request that the lawsuit be dismissed altogether.
“It has become abundantly clear that there is no such emergency,” they wrote.
Reached by phone, Fishbein disagreed and said the group has been trying to coordinate the schedules of the lawyers involved and potential expert witnesses.
“We are working on scheduling and unfortunately, there’s a lot of moving pieces here and we still take the position here that there is an emergency,” he said.
So far, the group has had a difficult time lining up expert witnesses to support their claims that masks are ineffective and harmful to children. The court heard from two out-of-state doctors called by the group, but Moukawsher rejected them both as unqualified.
The judge gave them one more chance to identify suitable witnesses, but then the parties postponed the hearing in which the judge would have heard from new witnesses. It’s unclear whether that offer is still on the table or whether Moukawsher will grant the state’s request to move forward on their motion to dismiss. The state is asking the court to schedule a hearing for Friday.
The lawsuit continues as the state has reached infection rates not seen since June and schools in some areas are opting to return to remote learning full time. Gov. Ned Lamont alluded to some of the litigation challenging Connecticut’s public health requirements as he urged residents to observe them this week.
“Now as we approach mid- to late October and you see those numbers scooting up, we’ve gone from ‘We’re all in this together’ to ‘I’m going to sue you if you make me wear a mask.’ We’ve got to continue to maintain our discipline and get this right,” Lamont said earlier this week.