Team Southwell is on a roll and parents across the state are celebrating. The over three dozen parent plaintiffs and their attorney have been racking up recent victories in Rhode Island’s Superior Court in the Southwell v McKee lawsuit against K-12 school mask mandates.
Yesterday (June 6), Judge Lanphear ruled against the State’s motion to dismiss the parent’s lawsuit on the basis of “mootness”, writing in his decision that “the making requirement is a live controversy, likely to be reimposed if future conditions change,” and not a an issue that “teeters on mootness,” as the State claimed in its motion. With the the recent re-imposition of masks in Providence and Central Falls, the judge wrote “although the Governor’s Executive Order expired and the resultant mandatory masking of students has ceased, there is no assurance that will not be back.”
In keeping the lawsuit alive, not only will the larger hearing continues, which challenges the State’s authority and justification for imposing universal masking policies, but it also means that other motions filed by team Southwell will also proceed.
Of greatest concern to the State, and of potentially enormous consequence for the parent-plaintiffs, is a motion to allow Southwell’s attorneys to conduct depositions with key administration and health officials. During the lawsuit’s proceedings, which began in the fall of 2021, the State has done everything in its power to avoid all forms of “discovery”; it is theorized that their arbitrary and non-science-based policy decision making would not hold up as credible under open scrutiny.
The attorney for the parents, Gregory Piccirilli, also filed a motion seeking sanctions against the State for “misleading the court” about whether or not mask mandates might ever be imposed again, following the expiration of the Governor’s executive orders, the central issue in the State’s mootness argument.
While team Southwell was denied a preliminary injunction many months ago, recent court victories could prove advantageous to parents in the larger trial’s future proceedings.
This week, attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants are actively attempting to negotiate an accommodation to the latest motions filed.
Stay tuned to The Ocean State Current for the latest updates on this lawsuit.