The Taney County Circuit Clerk dismissed a lawsuit filed earlier this month against the city of Branson's face mask mandate.
In his ruling yesterday, Judge Jeff Merrell cited the city's "sovereign immunity" in the suit filed by business owners Jamie Hall of Branson Etched Mugs and Bo Dejager of Foam Bros. They claim the order causes harm to the tourist city's economy and infringes on individuals' right to privacy. The suit names the city and all of the aldermen that voted to approve the measure last month.
"There exist no allegations brought by plaintiffs that these aldermen acted in anything other than their legislative capacities as aldermen serving on the city of Branson's legislative body," Merrell wrote in his decision, according to a court filing. "Missouri law is clear that those individual aldermen for the city of Branson have absolute immunity for their legislative duties and respective votes described in and pleaded in plaintiff's petition."
Plaintiffs' attorney Kristi Fulnecky said in a statement to Springfield Business Journal that she plans to file a civil rights complaint in federal court on behalf of her clients so that "sovereign immunity will not be an issue."
"We remain hopeful the court will rule in our favor after this case is litigated," Fulnecky said in the statement. "The majority of citizens are against this mask mandate and we will continue to fight to make their voices heard in court – as their voices were silenced locally by the Branson city council."
In another COVID-19-related suit represented by Fulnecky, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri on Aug. 21 denied a request for a temporary restraining order against Springfield Public Schools' reopening plan.
Fulnecky also is representing plaintiffs in a suit against the city of Springfield's face mask ordinance. Online court records indicate the city last week asked for the case to be moved to federal court.
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