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On Monday, September 13, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pratt issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) arguing Iowa Code section 280.31 violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act based on the testimony of parents who filed a lawsuit against the governor. Following the law of TROs, this order has expired today, Monday, September 27.

While Iowa citizens and parents across the state are well aware of this TRO, and school boards throughout Iowa have raced to vote in favor of mask mandates, there are a few critical details about a TRO that are not well known to the general populace. Additionally, the media has remained remarkably silent about the expiration despite this being very newsworthy for both parents and schools alike.

According to Cornell Law School, a TRO is a short-term pre-trial temporary injunction. Such orders are designed to be stop-gap measures and in the federal courts, a TRO is governed by Rule65(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Rule65(b) clearly states that Temporary Restraining Orders may be issued without notice to the adverse party, if the affidavit or verified complaint clearly shows immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result before the adverse party can be heard in opposition. Left leaning Judge Pratt, determined this was valid based on the parent complaints, despite a lack of verifiable evidence to support such claims.

Section 2 of Rule 65(b) is where we get to some very interesting, and possibly damning information regarding the TRO filed against the Iowa law on mask mandates. Every TRO “must state the date and hour it was issued; describe the injury and state why it is irreparable; state why the order was issued without notice; and be promptly filed in the clerk’s office and entered in the record. The order expires at the time after entry– not to exceed 14 days.” Without issuing a temporary injunction that would continue to prevent Reynolds from enforcing the law until a lawsuit to be heard, the TRO expires today. At the time of this publication, no additional extensions or injunctions have been filed to extend the TRO, reverting law back to the original law as instituted by Reynolds. At this time, mask mandates are once again illegal.

There is another issue worth noting and calling on the U.S. District Court and Judge Pratt to answer, was this TRO even legally filed? It clearly lacks the time-stamp including the time it was filed, as part of the required documentation for the 14-day period a TRO is effective. The TRO filed by Judge Pratt can be viewed and read in full here.

“Although my practice is centered at the state level, my understanding of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 is that it covers both injunctions and restraining orders,” said attorney Travis Inghram, of Inghram Law, PLLC. “After reviewing the Order Granting Plaintiff’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order in The Arc of Iowa v. Kim Reynolds, Judge Pratt clearly stated multiple times that he was considering a Temporary Restraining Order and did not reference a preliminary injunction. As such, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(b) would be the controlling authority. Specifically, Rule 65(b)(2) covers the contents and expiration terms of any such order. That rule clearly requires that a TRO ‘must state the date and hour it was issued.’ Upon my review, I do not note where the Judge issued the time, only the date. This may very well invalidate the entire order for procedural violations. Even if it does not, the order would expire at the time the court set, or no later than 14 days, whichever is first. As the order did not issue an expiration term, it should expire at the 14 day mark. For good cause it can be extended for another 14 days, but the reasons must be clearly entered into the record. As of this interview, I am not aware of any extension being filed. This rule is available for public review in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65. Although this is my interpretation of the law, it should not be considered as legal advice on this particular matter.”

The questionable legality of such TRO, brings on additional questions. If this TRO was not properly filed, could this open a pathway for parents and students against the mask mandates to take legal action against the school districts involved for enforcing an illegitimate TRO?

Hopefully we can gain further clarification from the office of our governor, Kim Reynolds on the legality of the TRO, and the U.S. District Court or Judge Pratt which will then give a greater insight to any future actions, TROs or injunctions that may come regarding this divisive issue.

Author: Mallory Kienast