Coronavirus mask mandate: Palm Beach County judge says ‘no constitutional right infringed’
( Palm Beach Post )
Palm Beach County Judge John Kastrenakes ruled against a motion for temporary injunction against the county’s mask mandate, saying it violates no constitutional rights.
A judge has sided with Palm Beach County on a lawsuit against its mask mandate, saying he finds that “no constitutional right is infringed.”
“The right to be ‘free from governmental intrusion’ does not automatically or completely shield an individual’s conduct from regulation,” Judge John Kastrenakes wrote in an order signed Monday.
“More to the point, constitutional rights and the ideals of limited government do not absolve a citizen from the real world consequences of their individual choices, or otherwise allow them to wholly shirk their social obligation to their fellow Americans or to society as a whole,” he continued.
A group of Palm Beach County residents who oppose the mandate sought a temporary stop in enforcing it until a final decision could be reached.
Kastrenakes said county commissioners, who unanimously approved the measure last month, came to a “reasonable and logical conclusion” that requiring masks was the best decision to serve and protect their constituents during a health crisis.
“Neither this court nor an apparent vocal group of residents has the authority to second guess that policy decision,” he wrote, adding that he wasn’t about to support the idea that “unelected persons ... may nonetheless defy the will of its constituted authorities based solely on their personal disagreement with the manner in which those authorities seek to safeguard the general public.”
The lawsuit, filed a week after the June 23 approval, contends that the county’s measure violated the right to privacy. Kastrenakes disagreed, saying there is no expectation of privacy when wearing a facial covering in public, and he found that the plaintiff’s definition that a mask is a “medical procedure” was irrelevant.
“The covering of one’s nose and mouth is designed to safeguard other citizens,” Kastrenakes wrote. “The mask is no more a ‘medical procedure’ than putting a Band-Aid on an open wound.”
The lawsuit also claimed requiring facial coverings is a violation of the right to due process. Kastrenakes also disagreed on that point, saying the mandate is not vague and arbitrary.
“After all, we do not have a constitutional or protected right to infect others,” Kastrenakes wrote.
The judge’s decision falls in line with the rulings made in similar lawsuits filed in Alachua and Leon counties.
County Attorney Denise Nieman celebrated the ruling but said the case is not over.
“Even though other counties’ cases were heard before ours and received favorable rulings, we never take anything for granted,” Nieman wrote in an email to county commissioners Monday. “Different lawyers, plaintiffs, judges, executive orders and other variables could mean different results, so our case stands on its own. We’re honored to keep the victories going for local governments during the pandemic.”
The Palm Beach Post has reached out to the plaintiff’s attorneys for comment.
One of the attorneys, Louis Leo IV, wrote in a public Facebook post Monday that their legal team was “still digesting the 13-page order.”
Leo wrote that the ruling was not surprising, and ”[paved] the way for continued government tyranny under the guise of disease prevention in Palm Beach County.”
Like he had during the temporary injunction hearing on July 21, Leo again bashed a 115-year-old court case that the county used in its arguments to support a government’s role in taking specific actions to protect public health.
Leo wrote that the case is “often cited by those who seek unlimited pandemic powers, which was written by a slave owner and preceded Florida’s current Constitution by more than half a century.”