The school mask mandate is being lifted, but a lawsuit brought by Long Island parents challenging Gov. Kathy Hochul’s authority to impose such orders lives on.
It’s unclear how it will end.
The state Appellate Court had set Wednesday as the deadline for the state to submit paperwork on the case. What happens next is anyone’s guess, according to a legal expert.
"The question is whether with the mandate being lifted the case is moot," said James Sample, a professor at Hofstra University Law School and an expert on constitutional law.
And the answer to that question depends on what the state, the plaintiffs and the judges want to do going forward.
Chad LaVeglia, the attorney representing the parents, said they plan to push ahead with the case.
The state did not immediately comment.
The legal proceedings started Jan. 24 when State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker in Nassau County ruled in the parents' favor. That led some school districts to declare masks were optional the following school day.
Then the Appellate Court issued a "stay" or temporary suspension of the ruling, so the masks were back on the day after that. The next step comes Wednesday, the deadline for the state to submit papers in the case.
Sample said the state could offer the judges an "out" by saying the case is now moot.
But the state may also want to push ahead and get an answer, he said.
The thinking would be that "this kind of circumstance can come up again and the fact that the state is lifting the mandate shouldn’t prevent the case from going forward," he said.
The plaintiffs may also argue the same thing, he added, and want to see the case continue.
The state has extra incentive to see it through because it appears to be on solid legal ground, he said.
"I think the state is on firm legal ground and may actually want to get this resolved in a way that establishes clear precedent in their favor," he said. "On the other hand, the plaintiffs have very little to lose and may want to at least gamble that they might be able to establish precedent in their favor."
LaVeglia noted a judge has already ruled in the parents’ favor.
"It’s on them to convince the court that they have the authority" to impose such mandates, LaVeglia said.
Sample said that the court may simply want to move on from the case and end it.
"If that’s true then Governor Hochul and the state … succeeded in reaching the point where the plaintiffs’ lawsuit is effectively" null, he said.
Anything is still possible, Sample added, but "the main thing is the state remains on firm legal ground and succeeded in running out the clock."