Federal Judge Blocked California’s Medical Misinformation Law

Towards the end of January, federal judge William Shubb blocked a recently passed California law that sanctions doctors who share Wuhan virus “misinformation.:” 

This law initially went into effect on January 1, 2023. It bans doctors from disseminating what the state considers to be misinformation to patients. If medical professionals violate this law, they receive penalties for “unprofessional conduct”, which could potentially have these medical professionals lose their licenses. 

Five doctors, Tracy Hoeg, Ram Duriseti, Aaron Kheriaty, Pete Mazolewski, and Azadeh Khatibi, filed a lawsuit against Governor Gavin Newsom and members of the Medical Board of California.

Two organizations and a group of doctors have challenged the law in separate lawsuits. They argued that the law violated the First Amendment. The plaintiffs filed a motion at the US District Court of Sacramento to hold the law until the cases are settled. 

In a hearing, Shubb declared that the law’s definition of misinformation was “nonsense.”

“Because AB 2098 [the misinformation law] implicates [plaintiff’s] First Amendment right to receive information, she has standing,” the court said.

“Vague statutes are particularly objectionable when they involve sensitive areas of First Amendment freedoms because they operate to inhibit the exercise of those freedoms,” the court continued, making a reference to the 2001 case, California Teachers Association v. State Board of Education.

“When the challenged law implicates First Amendment rights, a facial challenge based on vagueness is appropriate.”

The court granted the plaintiffs a hearing to take on the law and blocked the law’s enforcement until the case is finally settled.

Per the law’s definition,  misinformation consists of “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care.”

Shubb said that “standard of care” is not a novel principle. By contrast, he contended that “contemporary scientific consensus” is.

Per Deputy Attorney General Kristin Liska, who is Governor Gavin Newsom’s legal counsel, a medical professional has to violate all three facets of the definition of misinformation for them to be punished: “Share misinformation, contradict scientific consensus, and go against the standard of care.”

Christina Mass of Reclaim the Net noted the following about the flaws in Liska’s arguments in favor the misinformation law: 

However, she refused to give examples of statements that would fit the definition, saying that it would depend on the circumstances. Shubb then asked how she expects medical professionals to know what would violate the law.

California is one of the most despotic states in the union. Freedom-loving right-wingers have virtually no options for change via the state legislature. They will either have to rely on the courts or nullification at lower levels of government to preserve what little freedoms they enjoy. Sadly, that’s how the cookie is crumbling in many blue states. 

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