Robinson v. Mo. Dep't of Health & Senior Servs., WD85070

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtAnthony Rex Gabbert, Judge
PartiesSHANNON ROBINSON, ET AL., Respondents, v. MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SENIOR SERVICES, Respondent; ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Appellant; BOARD OF TRUSTEES, LIVINGSTON COUNTY HEALTH CENTER AND MELANIE HUTTON, ADMINISTRATOR, COOPER COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH CENTER, Appellant; JEFFERSON COUNTY HEALTH CENTER, Appellant; JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI, Appellant.
Docket NumberWD85070,WD85071,WD85074,WD85075,WD85076
Decision Date13 September 2022

SHANNON ROBINSON, ET AL., Respondents,
v.

MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SENIOR SERVICES, Respondent;

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Appellant; BOARD OF TRUSTEES, LIVINGSTON COUNTY HEALTH CENTER AND MELANIE HUTTON, ADMINISTRATOR, COOPER COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH CENTER, Appellant; JEFFERSON COUNTY HEALTH CENTER, Appellant; JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI, Appellant.

Nos. WD85070, WD85071, WD85074, WD85075, WD85076

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division

September 13, 2022


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri The Honorable Daniel R. Green, Judge

Before Gary D. Witt, Chief Judge, Presiding, Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judge, Daniel Kellogg, Special Judge

1

Anthony Rex Gabbert, Judge

St. Louis County, Jackson County, Cooper County Public Health Center, Livingston County Health Center, and Jefferson County Health Center ("Intervenors") appeal the judgment of the Cole County Circuit Court denying their motion to intervene. In nine points on appeal, Intervenors claim that they should have been permitted to intervene and argue that a judgment granting summary judgment entered prior to their motions to intervene was in error. The judgment is affirmed.[1]

Facts

On December 21, 2020, Shannon Robinson, a Missouri resident, Twisted Tree, a Missouri LLC, and Satchmo's Bar and Grill, a Missouri LLC, (collectively "Plaintiffs") filed a declaratory judgment action against the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS"). DHHS was represented by the Missouri Attorney General's Office. The petition asked the Cole County Circuit Court to declare that portions of specific rules issued by the DHHS are invalid to the extent they authorize a county health officer or director of the St. Louis County Department of Health to create and enforce rules and regulations that govern all St. Louis County residents and organizations, whether or not sick, infected, or exposed to illness. The rules and regulations pertained to the COVID-19 virus, prohibiting gatherings of people, and mask mandates. On January 13, 2021, Plaintiffs filed a first amended petition for declaratory judgment against DHHS. The allegations were substantively similar. On February 12, 2021, DHHS filed its answer to the first amended petition.

2

Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment on February 24, 2021. DHHS filed a response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment on March 26, 2021. Robert Gatter, professor and former director of the Saint Louis University Center for Health Law Studies, and Dr. Thomas Burroughs, dean of the Saint Louis University College of Public Health and Social Justice, moved for leave to file suggestions as Amici Curiae on April 26, 2021. Their suggestions were in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. On May 6, 2021, Plaintiffs filed a reply to address arguments raised by DHHS and Amici Curiae. Oral argument was held on October 12, 2021. On October 15, 2021, Plaintiffs filed a supplemental brief in support of the motion for summary judgment.

The court entered judgment granting Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on November 22, 2021. The trial court struck several regulations as unlawful delegations of legislative authority, as violative of separation of powers principles set forth in the Missouri Constitution, as violative of the Missouri Administrative Procedure Act, as inconsistent with the public health framework established by Missouri statutes, and as violative of equal protection rights under the Missouri Constitution.

On December 2, 2021, Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced that the State of Missouri ("the State") would not appeal the judgment. On December 7, 2021, the Attorney General sent letters to local public health agencies and public school districts across the State declaring that pursuant to the judgment, "all mask mandates, quarantine orders, and other public health orders that are based on any of the invalidated regulations or issued outside the protections of the Missouri Administrative Procedure Act are null and void." The letters also stated that "[f]ailure to follow the court's judgment may result in enforcement action against you to remove orders the court has determined are unconstitutional and illegal."

3

On December 13, 2021, St. Louis County and Jackson County filed a joint motion to intervene. On December 14, 2021, the Cooper County Public Health Center filed a motion to intervene. On December 17, 2021, the Livingston County Health Center and Jefferson County Health Center filed separate motions to intervene. Intervenors cited news articles to assert that Attorney General Schmitt refused to appeal the judgment contrary to the wishes of DHHS. They sought permission to appeal the judgment.

Plaintiffs and DHHS opposed the motions to intervene. The Attorney General argued that he had the exclusive authority to direct litigation and determine whether to appeal a judgment. The Attorney General noted that Intervenors were not private parties but were instead political subdivisions of the State of Missouri. Intervenors were seeking to intervene as representatives of DHHS for the purpose of pursuing an appeal on behalf of the State of Missouri...

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