Nashua’s mask mandate will remain in effect, at least for now, after a court ruling was issued on Monday.
A Hillsborough County Superior Court judge has denied a preliminary injunction in the civil lawsuit filed against the city by Andrew Cooper, a Nashua resident.
Cooper claims city officials lacked the statutory authority to adopt its recently enacted ordinance requiring the use of face coverings while visiting local establishments and businesses in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Here, it is obvious that the purpose of the ordinance is to slow or prevent the spread of a highly contagious and deadly virus. In other words, the ordinance is clearly for the well-being of the city’s residents, visitors and businesses,” wrote Judge Jacalyn Colburn of Hillsborough County Superior Court South in Nashua, adding the Board of Aldermen has the general authority to enact laws protecting health, welfare and public safety.
“It seems common sense — to everyone except the plaintiff, his attorney and his expert — that requiring individuals to cover their faces while indoors will help reduce the transmission of a highly contagious virus that is spread through the air,” ruled Colburn.
Colburn stated that the mask ordinance involves reasonable measures to protect the public health while preserving avenues for First Amendment activities.
Attorney Steve Bolton, corporation counsel for the city, said recently that the mask mandate is no more intrusive than thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of regulations that have been enacted before, and by and large adhered to.
According to Attorney Robert Fojo, however, the ordinance is overbroad and violates his client’s constitutional rights, right to privacy and more.
“Because of the overbreadth of (the ordinance), it also deprives Mr. Cooper and other citizens of their privileges and liberty because it prevents them from choosing whether or not to wear a face mask or covering,” states the lawsuit.
In the same lawsuit, Cooper claims that Gov. Chris Sununu lacked the statutory authority to issue a state of emergency in New Hampshire because of COVID-19.
Colburn disagreed, ruling the governor’s executive orders adequately establish the factual bases supporting his emergency finding.
“As anyone not living in a cave for the past few months would know, the state, the country and the entire world are in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic event,” wrote Colburn, adding many New Hampshire residents have died or lost their jobs as a result of the crisis.
Furthermore, Colburn ruled that Cooper is making his argument in the wrong forum, explaining that if Cooper hopes to overturn Sununu’s emergency declaration, that issue should be addressed by the state Legislature, not the court.
A motion for preliminary injunction regarding the governor’s emergency order was also denied. Further court proceedings in response to Sununu’s emergency orders have now been moved to Merrimack County Superior Court.