Colorado GOP House leader seeks to overturn Polis pandemic orders

Colorado House Minority Leader Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Highlands Ranch at the State Capitol in Denver. (AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)

DENVER  |  Colorado’s House Republican minority leader and a conservative activist want the state Supreme Court to overturn a mask-wearing order and other measures by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis intended to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Patrick Neville and activist Michelle Malkin filed the lawsuit late Wednesday, The Denver Post reports. They argue that Polis violated the state Constitution’s separation of powers provisions and stripped the Legislature of its lawmaking role by declaring a public emergency that enabled him to issue executive orders to confront the pandemic.

The suit seeks to overturn several public health orders, including a state mandate requiring the mask-wearing in certain public spaces. Federal and state health officials encourage the use of masks to slow the transmission of the virus.

Defendants include Polis and the heads of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, El Paso County Public Health and the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.

The lawsuit contends that public health orders crafted or issued by unelected officials with health agencies are causing “unjust injury to the fundamental civil rights, liberty interests, and property rights” of Coloradans.

Neville was an early and vocal critic of a stay-at-home order issued last spring that has since been lifted, arguing in part it would destroy the economy by frustrating residents rights to work.

Polis, whose administration has been sued over past health guidance on public gatherings in houses of worship, insisted Wednesday that he is “free to be on the side of a deadly virus that has taken the lives of too many friends, parents, and loved ones, or on the side of Coloradans.”

More than 55,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in Colorado and there have been more than 1,900 deaths.

The lawsuit cites a state Supreme Court decision on July 1 that reversed an executive order by Polis easing signature-gathering requirements for ballot initiatives because of the pandemic. The court said Polis cannot suspend a state constitutional requirement — in this case, on signature-gathering — despite the public health emergency.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.