ATLANTA — A legal showdown is brewing between Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms about the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The battle first began on July 10, when the state filed a lawsuit challenging Bottoms’ decision to roll back reopening guidelines in the city of Atlanta.
Bottoms argued that with cases of COVID-19 surging, people should wear masks in public and restaurants should close their dining rooms.
On Wednesday, Kemp responded by signing a statewide order banning all cities and counties from enforcing mask mandates and saying the guidelines Bottoms’ was proposing were unenforceable. Under Kemp’s executive order, no local government can make restrictions stricter than those issued by Kemp.
Kemp criticized Bottoms by claiming her order would cause further damage to businesses already hit hard by the pandemic.
On Thursday, Kemp filed a lawsuit against Bottoms and the entire Atlanta City Council.
Bottoms said on Twitter Sunday that as part of that lawsuit, Kemp has also asked for an emergency injunction to restrain her from talking to the press.
Bottoms attached a screenshot of Kemp’s injunction, which asks the court to:
“Issue an interlocutory and permanent injunction to restrain Mayor Bottoms from issuing press releases or making statement to the press, that she has the authority to impose more or less restrictive measures than are ordered by Governor Kemp related to the Public Health Emergency.”
Kemp and his administration fired back, claiming they filed the injunction because the Mayor’s comments are causing too much confusion, especially for local businesses.
Bottoms has said that her restrictions are not mandates, but recommended guidelines, and that taxpayer dollars could be used instead on more coronavirus testing and contact tracing.
A spokesperson for the Governor’s office told Channel 2 Action News that the main reason for the lawsuit is to stop the confusion, especially when it comes to wearing a mask.
Channel 2′s Michael Seiden spoke with Atlanta attorney Andrew Fleischman, who is not involved in the lawsuit, but offered his expert opinion.
“The real vulnerability of the Atlanta order is that it’s an emergency order and specifically, emergency orders cannot be inconsistent with what the governor requires,” Fleischman said.
Fleishchman said that Kemp blocking Bottoms from talking to the media would be a violation of the First Amendment and that he believes it is unconstitutional.
“The bottom line is the judge will have some time to rule, and we won’t hear about the answer to this probably until the next week or so,” Fleischman said.
A judge will take up the issue Tuesday morning at 11 a.m.
Stay with WSBTV.com and Channel 2 Action News for the latest on this developing story.
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