Montana Public Radio

Judge: State Didn’t Prove Flathead County Businesses Violated Mask Directive

Nov 12, 2020

A Flathead County District Court judge Thursday denied the state’s request for a temporary restraining order against five businesses alleged to have violated Gov. Steve Bullock’s mask directive.

In late October, the state brought five cases against bars, restaurants, casinos and convenience stores in Flathead County. Several complaints were filed with health officials about the businesses, and the county attorney declined to prosecute the cases. The state asked the court to enact restraining orders against the businesses, arguing they weren’t following the state’s mask directive. 

Judge Dan Willson said the state’s photos of maskless customers and employees weren’t enough evidence to shut down the businesses, because state inspectors didn’t ask those people whether they fell under a health exemption. 

"I believe I would be engaging both cynicism and speculation, which in my view are the twin pillars of defective judicial findings, and I decline the state’s invitation to engage in that undertaking," Wilson said.

Some of the businesses testified that they did not ask employees to wear masks for fear that they would quit, and some said they didn’t ask customers to wear masks for fear they would become violent.

Judge Wilson said the businesses made reasonable efforts to comply with the state directive by providing signage and providing masks to both customers and employees who wished to wear them.