Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp are headed towards a royal rumble in the courtroom. This should not be surprising to anyone. A lawsuit like this one was always destined to reach the courtrooms at some point during this whole awful pandemic. Once Kemp issued an executive order that kept all municipal and local governments from being able to mandate masks, that was all she wrote.
As for Mayor Bottoms, she seemed to be walking in lockstep with Kemp when it came to these orders. Of course, all of that changed once they were diagnosed with the virus. Now, she is having a major change of heart. It did not take long before she decided that it was time to defy the orders that were made by the state’s governor.
Kemp is not taking kindly to these choices. The Governor and the Attorney General are going to be taking Bottoms to court, in hopes of preventing her from being able to enforce her new mask order. Any other rules that are related to the ongoing pandemic are also going to be questioned. The suit was filed late Thursday and we look forward to seeing what is going to happen next.
“Governor Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage the public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” states the lawsuit. 14 other local governments are being targeted by the lawsuit, as Kemp looks to keep them from issuing any sort of mask related requirements.
Mayor Bottoms is still defiant at the moment. She is not willing to back down when it comes to the wearing of masks. It’s funny how this only became important to her after she contracted coronavirus but that’s neither here nor there. “If being sued by the state is what it takes to save lives in Atlanta, then we will see them in court,” Bottoms said in a statement that was issued almost immediately after the lawsuit was announced.
The grounds for Kemp’s objections and the validity of his suit are not immediately clear. He and the District Attorney say that the order is enforceable under Georgia state law but there are no specific provisions that have been provided for an order of this nature. His objections are clearly stated, though. Kemp believes that mask related orders will simply confuse the general public.
However, this is an executive order that was issued by a state governor in the midst of a state of emergency. Kemp should not have to explain himself in these instances but here we are. This is a showdown that is going to be mirrored in states all around the country. Governors will issue their orders and those who are not willing to comply will find themselves locked in a courtroom battle for the ages.
If a governor is able to override a mayor’s orders, what happens when a president decides to override them both? The Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the Constitution is brought up in these discussions on a regular basis. These clauses are found in most state constitutions and provide the federal government with the authority to step in during these types of situations.
The Supremacy Clause cannot be invoked in these instances because a legislative body has had the chance to consider or approve of the mask related orders. It’s hard to imagine a case where this clause would be applied. The courts are going to be forced to grapple with this question on their own.
While most of us associate the sweeping power to make decisions of this nature with a president, courts are now going to have to decide whether governors can make these sorts of rules as well. Is Governor Kemp’s order going to be upheld or will the courts side with Mayor Bottoms? We are going to be finding out soon enough.