January 24, 2022
A New York State Supreme Court judge on Monday ruled that Governor Kathy Hochul’s mask mandate for schools and other public locations is unconstitutional.
Judge Thomas Rademaker found that the governor and the state health commissioner did not have the authority to enact a mask mandate without the state legislature, given that the governor no longer has emergency powers.
The mask mandate has been in place since mid-December, when the state saw a surge in the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
“There can be no question that every person in this State wishes, wants and prays that this era of COVID ends soon and they will surely do their part to see that is accomplished,” Rademaker wrote in his decision. “However, enacting any laws to this end is entrusted solely to the State Legislature.
While the intentions of Commissioner Bassett and Governor Hochul appear to be well aimed squarely at doing what they believe is right to protect the citizens of New York State, they must take their case to the State Legislature.”
The ruling comes from a state Supreme Court based in Nassau County, which is a trial court. The New York Court of Appeals is akin to a more traditional “Supreme Court” in terms of authority, in that it is the state’s highest court.
In a statement Monday evening, Hochul vowed to appeal the ruling.
“My responsibility as Governor is to protect New Yorkers throughout this public health crisis, and these measures help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Hochul said. “We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately.”
The ruling comes weeks after Nassau County’s newly sworn-in Republican county executive issued an order allowing school districts to decide whether to institute mask mandates, in defiance of Hochul’s order.
“School boards are comprised of elected officials who make decisions based upon the unique circumstances of each district,” county executive Bruce Blakeman said at a press conference at the time. “They are in the best position to make these decisions, not an autocracy in Albany.”
Blakeman also issued orders to formalize his decision not to enforce the governor’s mask mandates that he said “unfairly fine residents and small businesses thousands of dollars” and also allow public county workers to go maskless indoors.
The county executive celebrated the ruling in a tweet on Monday: “A NYS Supreme Court Judge has ruled that the Governor’s mask mandate is illegal. The Governor and State Education Department have NO authority to enforce this mandate without the approval of State lawmakers. This is a major win for students & parents.”
SOURCE: The National Review