Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican who is quarantined after testing positive for the coronavirus, released an opinion Wednesday blasting Gov. John Bel Edwards' mask mandate.
In a nine-page advisory opinion that he said was prompted by questions from Republican lawmakers and law enforcement, Landry said the three main provisions of Edwards' latest order – a mask mandate, closure of bars and a 50-person gathering limit – are "likely unconstitutional and unenforceable."
Advisory opinions do not hold the force of law, but are typically written to provide the attorney general's interpretation of legal issues. For the guidance to be nullified, a judge would have to strike down the order following a lawsuit.
"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 as mask police and actual police acting as mask police could face liability if individual civil rights are violated due to the proclamation."
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry wasn't on the tarmac to greet Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday morning because he has tested positi…
Edwards' order made Louisiana one of several Southern states to mandate masks statewide or in regions. Texas, Mississippi and Alabama, all Republican-led states experiencing coronavirus surges, have issued some form of mask mandate.
Landry's opinion comes a day after Vice President Mike Pence expressed support for Edwards' latest order, which mandated masks and shuttered bars in an effort to get a grip on spiking infections and hospitalizations.
Edwards, on his monthly radio show Ask the Governor, shot back and suggested Landry return to his position in March, when he stood next to Edwards at a press conference and said the governor had the ability to put restrictions in place.
"It’s unfortunate," Edwards said. "We know we’re doing what’s right. We know we're doing what we’re authorized to do under the law. I wish the attorney general would rescind the opinion and get back in line with what he was saying just a couple months ago.”
A Stronger Louisiana, a pro-Edwards political group, issued a memo at the same time Landry's opinion was released, noting Landry requires face masks in his office and that Pence expressed support for Edwards' moves.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is urging the state's top school board to avoid mandating the use of face masks by students and teacher…
Landry has criticized coronavirus restrictions before, including ones that limited churches and banned live music. He recently wrote a letter to the state education board where he argued masks should not be mandatory in schools.
He also tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of Pence's visit, and said Tuesday he was quarantining and asymptomatic.
The letter also challenges the basis health officials and Edwards used to close bars, arguing the contact tracing data cited is flimsy. The state's contact tracing program has lagged in part because people aren't picking up the phone when called.
Courts have ruled on several stay-at-home orders, mask mandates and other restrictions across the U.S., largely upholding the restrictions, though a handful have been blocked. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a California emergency order limiting capacity at churches.
In May, as Edwards was set to move the state into Phase 2 of reopening, Landry signed onto a letter that urged the governor to open up all businesses and to have the same set of regulations for all.
Landry and Edwards have feuded off and on for the entirety of their tenures as attorney general and governor, respectively, after both were elected to the posts in 2015. They have battled over everything from LGBTQ rights to the Affordable Care Act to coastal lawsuits and more.
Early on in the pandemic, however, Landry and Edwards set aside their political beef and stood side-by-side at a news conference in mid-March. Landry said at the time he supported Edwards' executive order that implemented several restrictions to slow the spread, saying the governor had the authority to do so.
That goodwill evaporated over the course of the crisis, however, and Landry has increasingly taken aim at Edwards' restrictions.