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Arkansas Supreme Court vacates ruling over mask mandate ban

A court ruling that declared a mask mandate ban in Arkansas unconstitutional has been vacated by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

ARKANSAS, USA — The Arkansas Supreme Court has vacated a Pulaski County Circuit Court ruling that declared a mask mandate ban unconstitutional.

The ruling by the state's highest court came on January 26 more than two years after Judge Tim Fox's ruling in Dec. 2021.

In April 2021, the Arkansas legislature passed Act 1002, which prohibited state agencies and officials from mandating the use of face masks. Two separate lawsuits were brought forth by two parents and the Little Rock and Marion school districts which were later joined together.

Then on Dec. 29, 2021, Fox ruled the law unconstitutional on ten grounds, saying it violated the separation-of-powers clause and several amendments.

Arkansas appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, who ruled that the circuit court "lacked jurisdiction to enter" a final order while an interlocutory appeal was pending.

"When a circuit court acts without jurisdiction, its orders and judgments are void," the court said. "Because the circuit court was without jurisdiction to enter the final order, the order is void, and we lack jurisdiction to hear an appeal from it. Accordingly, we vacate the order and dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction."

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders applauded the ruling, saying that "government will never loom larger than liberty in our lives" and that "protecting Arkansans and defending their freedoms is my top priority."

Tom Mars, who represented parents in the lawsuit said an earlier ruling that temporarily blocked the ban remains in effect, according to the Associated Press.

“The preliminary injunction prohibiting the enforcement of Act 1002 on constitutional grounds remains in full force and effect and will not be revisited for quite some time," Mars said in a statement.

The justices did not weigh in on whether the law was constitutional or not, the AP said. 

The ruling was written by Associate Justice Robin Wynne with Special Justice Howard W. Brill joining. Associate Justice Rhonda Wood did not participate in the ruling.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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