Appeals court tosses Florida school mask case

After both sides said the case was moot, the 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday dismissed a high-profile legal fight about the state’s efforts to prevent school mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A three-judge panel dismissed an appeal after attorneys for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration and a group of parents filed a joint motion saying the case was moot because of a law passed in a special legislative session last month. The parents from various parts of the state filed the lawsuit Aug. 6, about a week after DeSantis issued an executive order aimed at preventing school mask requirements.

The Florida Department of Health issued rules designed to carry out the executive order. Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper sided with the parents, finding that DeSantis overstepped his legal authority in the executive order. The DeSantis administration appealed Cooper’s ruling to the Tallahassee-based appeals court.

While the appeal remained pending, lawmakers met in a special session and passed a measure that barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks. In the Nov. 29 motion for dismissal, attorneys for the two sides said the law “recently enacted by the Florida Legislature and signed by the governor has superseded the executive order and the Department of Health rule that were at issue in this appeal.” The appeals court Wednesday also vacated Cooper’s ruling.

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