Could Judge Greer’s Knox County masking order affect other school districts?

Could school systems other than Knox County see mask mandates?
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 1:51 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Many people have questions about how and if Judge Ronnie Greer’s decision to implement a masking mandate in Knox County Schools could affect other school districts in East Tennessee.

WVLT News spoke with legal experts to find out what affects his decision could have. Akram Faizer, a law professor at Lincoln Memorial University, said that while Greer’s decision only affects Knox County Schools, his power extends to all 41 counties in East Tennessee.

Since Judge Greer has power over all East Tennessee counties, it is likely that he might make the same decision to other East Tennessee school systems if the issue arises, Faizer said. Faizer also said that while Judge Greer has the power to implement a mask mandate in any of the counties he oversees, he likely will not unless a case arises.

County law directors should follow Greer’s order as well, Faizer said, but will instead likely wait until an appeal is completed on the order.

Michael Higdon, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee, told WVLT News that the ruling should not have a direct affect on future cases outside of Greer’s jurisdiction, but could persuade other judges to make similar decisions.

“District court decisions help decide the case that is currently before them, but they do not create law for future cases,” Higdon said. “Nonetheless, they can be extremely persuasive to other judges and courts (meaning those future courts/judges might be inclined to do the same for similar reasons as the first court), but it is not binding.”

Gov. Lee responded to the latest filings from Judge Greer, saying he has no legal authority to implement the mask mandate. An appeal from Gov. Lee’s office is pending.

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