ATLANTA (AP) — A judge has recused herself from hearing a lawsuit filed by Georgia's governor to get Atlanta to stop enforcing a mask mandate and other measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, causing a hearing scheduled for Tuesday to be canceled, according to the attorney general's office.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Ellerbe had scheduled a hearing for 11 a.m. Tuesday on Gov. Brian Kemp’s emergency motion. But a spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Carr said the hearing is not happening because Ellerbe is recusing herself. Further details were not immediately available.
The state plans to seek another emergency hearing once the case has been assigned to another judge, Carr spokeswoman Katie Byrd said in an email.
Atlanta is among at least 15 local jurisdictions statewide that has ordered people to wear masks in many public places to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In a lawsuit filed Thursday against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the members of the City Council, Kemp argues that local leaders do not have the authority to impose measures that are more or less restrictive than those in his executive orders.
A pandemic-related executive order issued by Kemp last week strongly encourages but does not require the wearing of face coverings and suspends any local laws or rules that are more restrictive, the lawsuit says. Bottoms and some other mayors responded by saying they would continue to enforce local mask mandates.
Bottoms’ orders and statements to the press have created uncertainty and confusion, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit asks a judge to overturn Bottoms’ orders that are more restrictive than Kemp’s, block her from issuing any more such orders, instruct the City Council not to ratify Bottoms’ actions or adopt any ordinances inconsistent with Kemp’s orders, to prohibit Bottoms from making public statements asserting she has authority that exceeds Kemp’s, and to require city officials to enforce “all provisions” of Kemp’s existing orders.
The governor filed a motion for emergency interlocutory injunction the following day, essentially asking the judge to order that all those requests take immediate effect while the lawsuit is pending. Tuesday’s hearing was to focus on arguments on that motion.
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