Judge Robert W. Pratt has struck down Gov. Kim Reynolds’s mask mandate ban. Pratt, a federal judge, serving in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, issued the ruling today in Des Moines. 

The ruling, in a nutshell, says that, in the judge’s view, the risk of Covid is so high, and that masks work so well, that it’s a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act not to require every student to wear a mask. But, at the same time, the ruling says that it’s up to every school board to decide whether to issue a mask mandate. 

Make sense? No? Try this. 

Judge Pratt: These children will die or be severely ill unless every one of their classmates wears a mask. 

Also, Judge Pratt: School boards get to decide if every student wears a mask. I just won’t let the elected legislature do it. 

Politically motivated?

How did we get such a politically motivated decision that makes no logical sense? 

Well. Pratt, the judge behind the decision, has a history of making politically inappropriate comments. 

In a phone interview last summer with AP reporter Ryan Foley, Pratt said, “It’s not surprising a criminal like Trump pardons other criminals.” […] “But apparently to get a pardon, one has to be either a Republican, a convicted child murderer, or a turkey.”

The remarks sparked a backlash in the legal community and even resulted in the chief judge of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Lavenski Smith, issuing a Judicial Misconduct complaint. 

These comments, paired with today’s decision, will certainly raise eyebrows and lead to the belief that the ruling was politically motivated in nature rather than an impartial interpretation of the law. 

Other inconsistencies appear in the ruling. For example, Judge Pratt quotes one of the ACLU’s witnesses, saying that masks cause no harm to children. But just a few paragraphs later, he cites other evidence saying that some children cannot wear masks because of health or behavioral development issues. And the ruling doesn’t acknowledge that any child who wants to wear a mask at school is allowed to.

Judge Pratt also didn’t consider whether any lesser measures would have worked. So why not order schools to require masking around kids with health problems? For example, just two students from the Des Moines Public Schools sued. Their health needs will dictate mask-wearing by over 20,000 kids in that district, most of whom aren’t in the same building as the plaintiffs.

In a statement reacting to the ruling, Gov. Reynolds said the following: 

“Today, a federal judge unilaterally overturned a state law, ignored the decision by our elected legislature and took away parents’ ability to decide what’s best for their child. We will appeal and exercise every legal option we have to uphold state law and defend the rights and liberties afforded to any American citizen protected by our constitution.”

One attorney contacted by Iowa Field Report said, “this ruling will not last long once it gets in front of the Eighth Circuit. The state can appeal this once Judge Pratt converts his order to a preliminary injunction. The appellate court is going to see right through the holes in his legal analysis. It’s too bad that in the meantime, kids are caught in the middle.”