The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied a legal petition Friday requiring attendees at President Donald Trump's Saturday campaign rally in Tulsa to observe social distancing protocols and wear face masks.
Tulsa attorneys Clark Brewster and Paul DeMuro filed the lawsuit, along with an emergency petition for an injunction Tuesday, on behalf of the Greenwood Centre, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation and two individuals, against ASM Global, parent company of the firm that manages the BOK Center in Tulsa, where the president's rally will take place.
In a unanimous decision Friday afternoon, the court ruled the petitioners did not "possess a clear legal right to the relief they seek," since Phase 3 of the governor's Open Up and Recover Safely (OURS) Plan allows business owners, including large venues, to use their own discretion in "determining the appropriate levels of social distancing and group size."
Absent any other restrictive guidelines, the court stated in its judgment the BOK Center needed only to follow the OURS Plan.
"Therefore," they wrote, "for a lack of any mandatory language in the OURS Plan, we are compelled to deny the relief requested."
The petitioners, which included two immunocompromised Tulsans, stated in their filing they sought relief due to the risks of a large gathering during an "alarming uptick in COVID-19 infections in Tulsa County," and sought to "protect against a substantial, imminent, and deadly risk to the community."
On Monday, Tulsa County reported an increase rate of COVID-19 cases of more than 16% — its highest rate of new cases since the pandemic started, according to the court filing.
Having an indoor rally under those conditions would constitute a "super-spreader" event in downtown Tulsa, the petitioners claimed.
Brewster posted a comment on his Facebook page Friday expressing disappointment the court had taken a narrow reading of the guidelines in the OURS Plan to allow a large gathering during the pandemic.
"On behalf of our clients, who as plaintiffs filed this action and sought protection from the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, we are deeply disappointed that the Court could not, amongst themselves, reach the merits of the plaintiff’s claims," Brewster wrote. "Such a technical application of the law potentially leaves many citizens who participate, or who later closely associate with attendees, exposed to the COVID-19 viral spread, illness and death."
Brewster said no further appeals will be filed in the case "due to the closeness of time to the start of the Trump rally."