Alachua County mask mandate legal fight could be moot

A year-long legal battle about a mask mandate in Alachua County could be moot after Gov. Ron DeSantis this month suspended local COVID-19 restrictions, according to a new court filing. 

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal heard arguments in November in a challenge to the constitutionality of an Alachua County order that required people to wear masks at businesses such as restaurants and grocery stores. But the Tallahassee-based appeals court has not ruled in the case, and Jeff Childers, an attorney for plaintiff Justin Green, filed a document Friday suggesting that the case is moot. 

The filing stems from an order issued by DeSantis that suspended local restrictions, such as mask mandates, across the state. Also, Childers wrote that Alachua County this month did not renew a local state of emergency, which he said terminated the mask mandate. 

"Given the subsequent developments, the court may not need to reach a decision on the county’s statutory authority regarding the mask mandate," the filing said. "The matter may now be moot." 

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Green, who operates a nursery business, and Childers took the case to the appeals court after Alachua County Circuit Judge Donna Keim last May refused to grant a temporary injunction to block the mask mandate. 

Amid political debates about wearing face masks during the pandemic, mask requirements passed by local governments in several parts of the state drew legal challenges over the past year.

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