Federal Judge Dismisses Mask Related Lawsuit Against City of Springfield

A federal judge has granted a motion on behalf of the City of Springfield and eight Council members to dismiss a lawsuit against the city’s masking ordinance, the only legal challenge to the city’s face covering requirement.

The lawsuit filed by attorney Kristi Fulnecky argued that her client was being subjected to an unconstitutional action by the city council in forcing her to wear a mask while in public places. The suit also said she feared people would harass her for not wearing a mask, and that she didn’t want to wear a mask to worship at church.

However, Fulnecky’s client Rachel Shelton also admitted that because of a medical condition, she was exempt from the mask ordinance. That was one of the reasons U.S. District Judge Douglas Harpool dismissed the case, saying that Shelton failed to show she was harmed by the ordinance.

“Plaintiff’s amended complaint numerous hypothetical, rhetorical, and argumentative statements but fails to allege specific facts demonstrating the Ordinance violates Plaintiff’s constitutional rights,” Judge Harpool wrote in his decision. “As previously discussed, Plaintiff is not even required to wear a mask pursuant to the Ordinance’s exemptions. Whether third parties—for example businesses, churches or individuals—request or require Plaintiff to wear a mask is not something that can be traced to the Defendants or the Ordinance. In fact, the Court previously noted regardless of the City’s Ordinance some national and even local business have instituted their own safety requirements in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that are independent of any local, county, or state ordinances.”

Harpool went on to rule that no Constitutional violation was brought before the court.

“Further, even if Plaintiff was required to wear a mask the Court finds Plaintiff has not alleged a constitutional violation,” Harpool wrote. “Plaintiff effectively asks the Court to second guess the wisdom of, and necessity for, policy decisions of the elected officials of the City of Springfield in enacting an ordinance from which she is exempted. The Court declines to do so.”

Judge Harpool had previously denied a temporary restraining order against the mask ordinance, stating the lawsuit was unlikely to succeed on merit.

“We are pleased with Judge Harpool’s ruling,” Springfield Mayor Ken McClure told OI. “The City’s filings speak for themselves, accurately stating our position on the matter.”

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(Editor’s note: We reached out to attorney Fulnecky for comment but did not receive a response by press time. We will update this story should she respond to our request.)

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