Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has dropped a lawsuit to overturn Atlanta's mask mandate and shelter-in-place order, saying that he will instead try to address the issue in a public health order.
The governor first sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in July, after she ordered the city to return to "Phase I" reopening guidelines. Under those rules, people could leave their homes only for essential travel, and retail businesses and restaurants were required to operate on a takeaway and delivery model only. Atlantans also faced fines and possible jail time if they failed to wear masks in public.
These were in conflict with Kemp's executive orders, which barred local governments from enforcing public health guidelines that were inconsistent with state policy. The governor had also expressly forbidden local governments from mandating masks.
Over the past several weeks, the two have been in mediated negotiations. In a Thursday statement, Kemp said he was dropping the lawsuit following Bottom's agreement to abandon Atlanta's return to Phase I guidelines. She refused, however, to drop her mask mandate.
"For weeks, we have worked in good faith with Mayor Bottoms, and she agreed to abandon the city's Phase One roll-back plan," declared Kemp in a statement. "Unfortunately, the Mayor has made it clear that she will not agree to a settlement that safeguards the rights of private property owners in Georgia. Given this stalemate in negotiations, we will address this very issue in the next Executive Order."
Bottoms has maintained in the face of Kemp's lawsuit that her ordered return to Phase I conditions was always intended to be voluntary.
— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) July 16, 2020
How exactly Kemp will address the issue of Atlanta's mask mandate in his next executive order is unclear. So is why a stalemate in negotiations would lead him to drop his lawsuit. State officials say Kemp's forthcoming order will try to limit the scope of local government's mask mandates to government property.
Some 15 local governments in Georgia have adopted mask mandates. A review by The Atlanta Constitution-Journal found that these mandates were largely symbolic, given that no citations had yet been issued to enforce them.
That fact Atlanta's mask mandate isn't being enforced seems to make the entire controversy over it unproductive political theater.
A mandate that's not being enforced is about as meaningful as the Soviet constitution's protections of free speech. The actual enforcement of the law matters more than what the words on the page say.
When the governor first filed his lawsuit, I favored the effort, believing that ticketing and jailing people for not wearing masks was a violation of personal liberty and a disproportionate punishment. But those unjust punishments are apparently not being metered out in Georgia.
That's a contrast with places like Miami-Dade County, Florida, where cops have set up "mask traps" outside grocery stores, or Nashville, where police arrested a homeless man with substance abuse issues for not wearing a mask.
Why the governor would feel it necessary to expend so many resources on an unenforced mandate is beyond me. Likewise, it doesn't make much sense that Bottoms would insist on keeping penalties against mask-wearing on the books—not to mention telling the media that no one is going to stop her from saving lives by enforcing a mask mandate—if she's not, in fact, enforcing her mask mandate.
California's eviction and foreclosure moratorium will expire on September 1, following a vote by the Judicial Council, the rule-making body for the state's courts.
The council had imposed a blanket moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, save for cases involving a threat to safety or public health, on April 6—one of 11 emergency rules the council adopted that day in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The blanket moratorium proved controversial. In June, the Pacific Legal Foundation sued the Judicial Council on behalf of two landlords, arguing that its eviction moratorium usurped powers the California Constitution grants to the state legislature.
Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, when announcing the upcoming vote to end the state's eviction and foreclosure moratorium, likewise said that the courts could not do the job of the executive and legislative branches.
"The duty of the judicial branch is to resolve disputes under the law and not to legislate," explained Cantil-Sakauye in a statement. "So I urge our sister branches to act expeditiously to resolve this looming crisis."
There are two bills pending in the state legislature to address the issue—one by extending a moratorium on evictions, the other by offering landlords tax credits to compensate them for unpaid rent.
The U.S. Justice Department is giving Yale two weeks to drop its use of race and national origin as admission criteria or else face a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit. The ultimatum comes after a two-year federal investigation into the university's admission practices, which found that Yale discriminates against white and Asian applicants.
"Yale's race discrimination imposes undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavored applicants, including in particular Asian American and White applicants," wrote Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, who completed his undergraduate degree at Princeton. "The likelihood of admission for Asian American and White applicants who have similar academic credentials is significantly lower than for African American and Hispanic applicants to Yale College."
The Justice Department's investigation was initiated after a 2016 complaint from a number of Asian American advocacy groups. Yale, they argued, was violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans "programs and activities" receiving federal funds from discriminating on grounds of race, color, and national origin.
Yale President Peter Salovey has called the Justice Department's accusations "baseless" and said the university will not be changing its admission criteria.
- The Afghan government has started releasing the last of its Taliban prisoners in the run-up to peace talks.
- Israel and the United Arab Emirates have announced that they will normalize relations, in what The New York Times calls a "landmark accord."
- A Stanford study probes why some people get sick from COVID-19 and others don't.
- President Donald Trump says he is having a lawyer look into whether Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.), who was born in California, is a natural-born citizen.
- The United Kingdom will quarantine arrivals from France, the Netherlands, and Malta because of those country's high COVID-19 caseloads
- Nebraska's state legislature just passed a ban on dilation and evacuation abortions.