Hack Trump Judge Cancel-Cultures Federal Public Transit Mask Mandate
A federal judge from Florida just ended tyranny and preserved our cherished freedoms. At least that’s what US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle probably tells herself, we guess. Monday, Judge Mizelle struck down the Biden administration’s mask mandate for airplanes and public transportation. According to CNN, Mizelle claims the mandate is "unlawful because it exceeded the statutory authority of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and because its implementation violated administrative law.”
The CDC had extended the mask mandate through May 3 as it monitored a recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Shortly after the ruling, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Department of Homeland Security and the CDC are "reviewing the decision ... and of course the Department of Justice would make any determinations about litigation.”
There’s a lot of scheduled assessments, updates, and next steps. She added:
Certainly no one here is trying to provoke uncertainty with passengers. We also think the mask mandate should be in place and that it's safer for individuals who are flying to continue to wear masks. We would say to anyone sitting out there, we'd recommend you wear masks on the airplane.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration announced Monday that it’ll stop enforcing the mandate, so good luck with that.
Now, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Judge Mizelle is a Trump appointee. She was just 33 when Trump picked her for a lifetime appointment on the bench. Her husband is Chad Mizelle, who was fake acting general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security, because it’s not like anything matters these days.
Mizelle’s hardly some legal prodigy. She was clerking just a year before her appointment. The American Bar Association suggests as a bare minimum 12 years as a lawyer for a federal nomination, and Mizelle had just eight, much of that spent managing paralegals. Since her admission to the bar, she’d never tried a case, civil or criminal, as lead or co-counsel. She is hella unqualified. Senate Republicans didn’t give AF.
Mitch McConnell, as usual, shredded Senate norms and bum-rushed her confirmation on November 19, 2020, weeks after the presidential election was called for Joe Biden. Yes, Tim Scott voted for this hack but not Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Mizelle’s legal arguments for overturning the ban are what you’d expect from someone the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called a "right-wing extremist" who "has been put forward not only because she is an ultraconservative ideologue, but also because she is a Trump loyalist, having worked in the Trump Justice Department to dismantle many critical civil rights protections."
This is from page two of her ruling. Beyond the hackery:
COVID-19 continued to spread throughout 2020 despite experiments with “unprecedented movement restrictions and social distancing measures.”
The judge described established mitigation measures for an infectious disease “experiments.” She also suggests these “experiments" failed because people still caught COVID-19 and died, even though it’s pretty clear that the restrictions kept our hospital system from collapsing under the weight of COVID-denialism. That’s pretty much the level of intellectual honesty you can expect from this ruling.
In her 59-page ruling, Mizelle suggested that the government’s implementation of the mandate – in which non-complying travelers are “forcibly removed from their airplane seats, denied board at the bus steps, and turned away at the train station doors” – was akin to “detention and quarantine,” which are not contemplated in the section of the law in question, she said.
“As a result, the Mask Mandate is best understood not as sanitation, but as an exercise of the CDC’s power to conditionally release individuals to travel despite concerns that they may spread a communicable disease (and to detain or partially quarantine those who refuse),” she wrote. “But the power to conditionally release and detain is ordinarily limited to individuals entering the United States from a foreign country.”
Yeah, it’s awesome when a judge’s ruling reads like a Tucker Carlson monologue.
The original suit was filed in July by the Health Freedom Defense Fund, along with two individuals. The HFDF describes itself as "a non-profit organization that opposes laws and regulations that force individuals to submit to the administration of medical products, procedures, and devices against their will." At this rate, no one’s wearing seat belts on a plane again.
National Security Law Podcast co-host Steve Vladeck, a lawyer who’s far more qualified than Mizelle given that he’s conscious, tweeted: "This is both a big deal and a truly preposterous (nationwide) injunction. The CDC’s statutory authority is specifically directed at preventing the spread of communicable diseases across state lines. Where else is such spread more likely to occur than transport hubs like airports?"
Rightwing ideologues like Mizelle don’t believe the federal government has any real authority — at least when Democrats are in charge. Once Republicans regain the White House, then executive power will remain unchallenged.
Gloating Republicans, especially Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, immediately applauded the ruling. This is standard GOP rope-a-dope: Partisan hacks on the bench — true judicial activists — advance their interests and Republicans claim “the law” supports their grotesque positions.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."