Boxes of face masks (Christine Stuart File Photo)

The Connecticut Supreme Court will consider a lawsuit challenging Gov. Ned Lamont’s order that students and staff in Connecticut schools wear masks to reduce spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The case dates back over a year when lawyers, representing a group of parents opposed to masking requirements, sued Lamont and the Education Department. They initially argued that masks posed a danger to children, but the case evolved into a separation of powers question after the court ruled the masks were an appropriate safeguard against coronavirus.

In May, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled the order constitutional, saying the separation of powers issues had been settled by the state Supreme Court’s rulings on other challenges of Lamont’s pandemic orders as well as subsequent actions taken by the legislature to ensure greater oversight of the executive’s ongoing emergency authority. 

The case was added to the Supreme Court’s docket on Tuesday and will be heard at a presently unscheduled date after lawyers on both sides have a chance to brief their arguments. 

When he appealed Moukawsher’s ruling back in June, Cameron Atkinson, one of several attorneys representing the opposed parents, argued in court filings that the case presented additional issues not settled by the Supreme Court’s prior decisions on the governor’s emergency authority including whether there are adequate caps on the duration of that authority.

“This important separation of powers question properly belongs before the Connecticut Supreme Court,” Atkinson wrote. “But for the numerous other important issues raised by this appeal, the Plaintiffs-Appellants would have filed a petition for a public interest appeal to address precisely that question. They chose to preserve all of their arguments on appeal though by filing with this Court first. They will speedily move for a transfer to the Supreme Court.”

The governor’s emergency declarations have continued as the state’s coronavirus situation has improved and worsened since last March. In September, the legislature voted to extend the declarations a sixth time until February, almost two years after the outset of the pandemic. 

The state Attorney General’s office has defended the governor and Education Department in the student case as well as other challenges to Lamont’s emergency orders. The plaintiffs, which include the families and the CT Freedom Alliance , have been represented by a number of lawyers including Atkinson, Republican state Reps. Craig Fishbein of Wallingford and Doug Dubitsky of Chaplin, and defense attorney Norm Pattis.