NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s attorney general said that the state’s mask mandate may be a good idea for public safety, but it violates the constitution.
Attorney General Jeff Landry released his official opinion on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ mask mandate, saying that it is likely unconstitutional and unenforceable. The attorney general's opinions do not carry the force of the law and provide legal advice to the state of Louisiana.
“Although the mask mandate and the 50-person limit may be good recommendations for personal safety, they may not be enforced with financial or criminal penalties,” Landry wrote. “Both businesses acting under color of law ask mask police and actual police acting as mask police could face liability if individual civil rights are violated due to the Proclamation.”
Gov. Edwards mandate effectively closed bars, forcing them to operate as takeout only, limited gatherings to 50 people and forces people to wear a face mask inside all businesses and in all crowded outdoor spaces. The mask mandate went into effect on Monday, July 13.
Landry emphasized that his legal analysis of the mask mandate does not mean that masks are ineffective at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
“All mandates that carry enforcement penalties against the public must be rationally related to achieving a legitimate public purpose,” Landry wrote. “To the extent, they impinge upon the exercise of constitutionally protected rights, they must meet an even stricter test and be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest to such a degree that they justify the concomitant reduction in individual liberty.”
Gov. Edwards responded to the AG's opinion, calling it "politically motivated."
"Louisiana continues to follow guidance from the White House and, just yesterday, I hosted Vice President Mike Pence and members of the federal White House Coronavirus Task Force in Louisiana, which is considered by the federal government to be in the ‘red zone’ for new cases," Edwards wrote. "Vice President Pence said he agreed with the steps I have taken in Louisiana and encouraged our people to wear masks and abide by my reasonable regulations. In fact, on Monday’s White House call with governors, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the federal coronavirus response, singled out my actions, including the mask mandate, as a ‘best practice’ for states with rising cases."