On December 3, hours after the court’s GVR-Harvest Rock, the Governor of California implemented a new framework that would allow for a total ban on indoor worship. With three weeks until Christmas, the district courts and the Ninth Circle could decide these cases immediately and swiftly before December 25 – especially after another Ninth Circle body found that the diocese had caused a “seismic shift in the law on free exercise” . But it’s the season for leisurely meeting schedules.
Let’s start with the never-ending Harvest Rock litigation. It took the district court more than two weeks to reject an injunction. The same day the TRO was denied, the Church filed for an injunction pending appeal. Now the Ninth Circle has issued a briefing schedule:
The court received the applicants’ urgent application for an injunction pending appeal. The response to the request is due on December 28, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time. The optional response in support of the application is due on December 29, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time.
Maybe we’ll make a decision by the new year. Judge O’Scannlain partially contradicted the order:
While I have no objection to the briefing schedule set out in the court order, I strongly oppose our not even temporarily accepting Harvest Rock Church’s request for exemption from California’s strict indoor worship restrictions until December 24th progeny.
The requested deadline is hardly arbitrary: the Church is asking our court to take immediate action so that its members can worship on Christmas Day, one of the holiest holy days on the Christian calendar. And it is not the Church’s fault that it finds itself in such dire straits. The church filed for an injunction against restrictions on worship in California once that case was remitted following a Supreme Court ruling. However, she had to wait more than two weeks for the district court to rule on this request. When the district court finally denied his motion two days ago, Harvest Rock Church appealed the same day. The next day, yesterday, the church moved due to an emergency injunction from our court.
Judge O’Scannlain would have given temporary relief at least for Christmas:
Even if we needed more time to fully examine the pending application, we should at least have given the church the temporary relief it needs to ensure that its members are free to exercise their Christian religion on one of the most holy Christians can exercise days of the year. US Const. to change. I.
Unfortunately, people who believe in the Bay Area are in a difficult position. The weather outside is terrible: 80% chance of rain, gusts of wind up to 40 km / h and temperatures below 50 ° C. I hope the members of the church can bundle up and bring umbrellas. You can pray through the silent night on the quiet streets of San Francisco.
Another Ninth Circle body issued a far better timeline for the briefing in the never-ending South Bay litigation:
The complainants are instructed to file an objection to the complainant’s urgency request for an injunction by 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, December 24, 2020. The complainants’ optional response is due on Thursday, December 24, 2020, by 12:00 p.m.
In theory at least, this body can decide the case before Christmas. And the full appeal is expedited, with the hearing scheduled for January 15:
The briefing schedule is as follows: The opening letter and extracts of the recordings are due on or before December 31, 2020; The reply letter is due on or before January 7, 2021. and the optional reply letter is due on or before January 11, 2021.
That appeal is set for a virtual hearing on January 15, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. in the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California
Justice Breyer was simply wrong that these types of disputes could be resolved in “hours”. Litigation takes time. Take Harvest Rock as an example. Judge Bernal probably knew from the start that the TRO was going to be rejected. But he felt the need to write a fourteen page decision. An opinion that frankly will no longer be of interest after the next week. It was a self-reflection exercise at the expense of litigants who wanted a timely resolution. My temporary inclination is that judges who want to reject the TRO should simply issue the order so that a proper appeal can be filed. A statement can be made in due course, even if the complaint is still pending. Here a quick check is far more important than a thorough examination. At least the judges owe the litigants an immediate decision in urgent legal disputes that affect the constitutional rights listed.
I am willing to bet everyone a piece of stale fruit cake that Governor Newsom will ease requirements as soon as Circuit Justice Kagan calls for an answer.