In a significant win for the American people, a federal judge has – at least for now – halted implementation of a California law purportedly aimed at stopping doctors from disseminating so-called “misinformation” or “disinformation” about COVID-19, as The Hill reports.
Federal District Court Judge William Shubb ruled that the statute, signed into law last year by Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom, is “unconstitutionally vague” and therefore in violation of the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.
The law, referred to as Assembly Bill 2098, was poised to take effect on Jan. 1 of this year, but was the subject of a court challenge filed in November by a group consisting of five physicians and two nonprofit groups.
According to its language, the statute gave the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California the authority to sanction doctors accused of disseminating information pertaining to the coronavirus deemed out of step with “contemporary scientific consensus,” as Fox News noted.
Topics that could conceivably fall under the law's purview included things such as vaccines, treatment methods, infection risk, and prevention techniques, and the provision of information declared to be “misinformation” or “disinformation” by the aforementioned bodies would be considered “unprofessional conduct,” which, as Breitbart noted, could result in serious penalties ranging from a stayed license revocation with several years of probation to a full license revocation.
Furthermore, “misinformation” in the context of the law is said to be information that runs contrary to the “contemporary scientific consensus” as well as the “standard of care, though no additional guidance on how those terms should be defined was included.
Those challenging the law contended that the term “scientific consensus” has no formal and accepted meaning within the medical profession, and Judge Shubb appeared to agree, stating that several key questions – such as who gets to declare the existence of a consensus – remain unanswered.
While the judge concurred with the state that there are some matters on which basic facts apply and scientific consensus can be said to exist – such as the underlying chromosomal cause of Down's syndrome – COVID-19 is a new phenomenon under ongoing study and something that remains “hotly contested.”
Because of these findings, Shubb ruled that it would be impossible for plaintiffs to know whether a planned course of conduct or patient interaction would be in violation of the statute as currently comprised.
Shubb also took aim at the fact that the phrasing of a portion of the law is grammatically muddled and therefore creates additional confusion among those to whom it is meant to apply.
Following the decision, Aaron Kheriaty, M.D., one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, took to Twitter to express his appreciation for the grant of a preliminary injunction, as Fox News further noted.
“The ruling bodes well for our case. It indicates that our arguments that this law is unconstitutional have strong pre-trial facial plausibility. Not to get ahead of ourselves, of course, or try to predict the final outcome of the case, but this is a very positive development,” Kheriaty wrote.
The doctor also added that “The preliminary injunction ruling also establishes that we five physicians have standing to challenge the law,” noting that a previous challenge to the same law had been dismissed due to a finding that the plaintiffs in that action did not have legal standing to pursue their case.
As prominent civil rights attorney Jenin Younes said of the California statute back in November, “That this shocking bill passed through the state legislature and was signed into law by Governor Newsom demonstrates that far too many Americans do not understand the First Amendment,” and that is a fact that the pandemic writ large tragically laid bare.