OC Board of Education Renews Lawsuit to End Newsom’s COVID Emergency Powers

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
July 7, 2022 Updated: July 7, 2022

COSTA MESA, Calif.—The Orange County Board of Education filed new legal action July 6 in a renewed effort to end Gov. Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 state of emergency, which was enacted more than two years ago in March 2020.

The board, along with child health advocacy group Children’s Health Defense, filed an amended motion to its existing November lawsuit against Newsom’s state of emergency. The motion will be heard by Orange County Superior Court Judge Theodore Howard on Aug. 11, according to board officials.

Board members spoke about the lawsuit during a press conference Wednesday ahead of the board meeting.

“This isn’t about masks. It’s not about vaccines. It’s about giving California back to Californians and getting back to the government and business as usual,” said Trustee Mari Barke.

Trustee Tim Shaw urged Newsom to call for the state Legislature to vote on the state of emergency.

“To me, there’s a fundamental question here,” Shaw said. “We don’t just give all power to one individual to make our rules and our laws for us … I would hope that the governor would see the error of his ways and at least call for a vote of the legislature.”

While mask and vaccine mandates have been relaxed, trustees warned that such mandates could potentially “return at any moment” with the state of emergency in place.

“The state of emergency allows the governor to issue a mandate at any time,” Barke said. “We believe that the power should be with the local school districts.”

This is not the first time the board has taken legal action against the governor’s pandemic state of emergency.

Last summer, attorneys for the board filed two petitions in the state Supreme Court seeking to end the state of emergency and mask mandates for students—both of which were ultimately denied.

This time around, the board’s attorneys filed a suit against Newsom in the Orange County Superior Court.

Barke also noted at the press conference that each suit “hasn’t cost taxpayers a dime” as attorneys working on the case were doing so pro-bono.

The announcement comes the same day Trustee Lisa Sparks, along with Barke and Shaw, were sworn in for another term following their respective June re-election victories.

At the start of the meeting, the board unanimously voted for Sparks to represent them as president and for Shaw as vice president. Barke and Trustee Ken Williams previously served as president and vice president, respectively.

Earlier this week, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that the LA Unified School District cannot require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend in-person classes.

Newsom’s office was not immediately available for comment.