Mask lawsuit could have fatal flaw

pike county board of education

PIKEVILLE, Ky. — A lawsuit filed against the Pike County Board of Education challenging its mask mandate could be dead on arrival.

A Pike County man, Levi Newsom, and a minor student represented by her parent, Mikey Ratliff, filed the complaint nearly two weeks ago, alleging that the mask mandate violates the U.S. Constitution and state and federal law.

Neither Newsom nor Ratliff are attorneys, and that could jeopardize their lawsuit.

As reported exclusively by Mountain Top News last week, Newsom’s and Ratliff’s complaint is one of at least 15 nearly identical lawsuits filed in Kentucky, Ohio, Texas and California over the past month. But five of those other lawsuits — three in Ohio and two in California — have now been dismissed, and several others have motions to dismiss pending.

Like the Pike County case, all of the other cases are by plaintiffs who are representing themselves and their minor children, and that’s the problem.

Federal courts have ruled that plaintiffs are free to represent themselves, but they cannot represent the interests of anyone else, even their minor children. That prohibition is intended to protect “the rights of those before the court by preventing an ill-equipped layperson from squandering the rights of the party he purports to represent,” the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2015.

At this time, there are no motions to dismiss the Pike County case, and the school board has not yet filed a response to the complaint.

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