LYNN — The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has denied an appeal from Ariana Murrell-Rosario of Liberty Tax Service that challenged an injunction order to temporarily close the business and the fines she acquired for failing to comply with COVID-19 regulations.
On April 23, 2021, the city filed an emergency motion in Superior Court saying that Liberty Tax Service refused to comply with two emergency COVID-19 orders issued by Gov. Charlie Baker, including a face-mask requirement, and failed to comply with the cease-and-desist order filed by the Lynn Board of Health on March 17, 2021.
Murrell-Rosario said that the city and state lacked the legal authority to issue the fines or obtain the injunction, but the city argued that since the closure order was temporary and ended when the mask mandate ended, there was no live controversy for the court to decide, according to Assistant City Solicitor James Wellock.
The city won this lawsuit in May of last year, which meant that the business had to close to comply with the cease-and-desist order.
However, the court put a pause on that ruling until questions were certified by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, so the court order was not in effect until the Appeals Court ruled — which it did this week.
In the appeal, Murrell-Rosario asked the court to invalidate the fines, which the court denied.
“In (this) decision, the court did not void any of the fines, and so, the fines that were issued remain… The city and state each issued its own fines,” Wellock said. “Many of them are on appeal in other venues.”
Besides the fines, Wellock said this decision does not further affect her business as she no longer needs to close, because the mask mandate is over, which deems the court order void, according to Wellock.
“This is the right result,” Wellock said. “We live in a rule-of-law society, which means the law applies to everyone equally. That was the reasoning the Superior Court gave for granting the injunction in the first place and the SJC did not disturb that ruling.”
At the time of the initial filing of the emergency motion last year, Liberty Tax Service had a “No Masks Allowed” sign on the front door, and employees confiscated face masks upon entry.
Murrell-Rosario explained the practice as part of her belief that wearing masks can spread sexually-transmitted infections.
The suit also said that Liberty Tax Service insisted on holding gatherings of people inside the office with no social distancing, face masks or any sort of air filtration or circulation, resulting in numerous complaints from members of the public visiting that establishment.
Police reportedly visited the establishment multiple times to inform Murrell-Rosario of the face-mask mandate and COVID-19 workplace-safety regulations, and as a result of her refusal to comply, the establishment received multiple warning fines from the city, totaling about $1,400.