Arkansas: Judge finds law on masks illegal on several fronts

A Pulaski County judge Friday barred authorities from enforcing the state’s recently enacted ban on government mask mandates for the time being.


The face-covering ban appears to be illegal because the law discriminates against public-school children, usurps judicial authority, limits gubernatorial emergency powers and infringes on the power of county officials — all constitutional violations — Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled.

Fox’s order is temporary, lasting until a full trial can be held on the legality of Act 1002 of 2021, passed in April by the General Assembly to prohibit government agencies from requiring masks, which public health officials have said are a deterrent to the spread of the coronavirus.

That proceeding has not been scheduled, but the judge said he wants to expedite it so the Arkansas Supreme Court can make the final ruling on the inevitable appeal.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who recently said he regrets signing Act 1002, praised Fox’s decision, calling it limited, well-reasoned and constitutionally based.

Hutchinson said he would not enact a statewide mask mandate, though the ruling gave him the authority to use his emergency powers to do so.

“[Act 1002] needed to be changed because of the new reality with the delta variant, but it failed to recognize the limits on legislative authority over the different branches of our state government,” the Republican governor said.