Judge rules Hochul’s mask mandate unconstitutional; NY files appeal
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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — New York State Tuesday formally filed its appeal after a State Supreme Court Judge out of Nassau County has ruled that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s mask mandate is unconstitutional.
A judge briefly heard arguments Tuesday afternoon and indicated he’d inform parties of his decision on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Hochul enacted the mask mandate in mid-December amid an increase in COVID-19 cases attributed to the omicron variant.
Judge Thomas Rademaker wrote in his decision that the governor does not have the authority to impose the mandate and that the state legislature would have to debate and approve laws requiring masks in schools and other places.
The ruling applies specifically to the statewide mandate issued by Gov. Hochul. Individual entities like businesses and school districts’ abilities to choose to enforce masking aren’t impacted by this ruling.
As of Monday night, some area school districts were already alerting parents that they are choosing to enforce their own mask mandates, with the Webster Central School District sending the following message to parents:
January 24, 2022
Dear Webster CSD Families,
You may have seen the news tonight that New York State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Rademaker of Nassau County has declared the state mask mandate unconstitutional. We understand that the State of New York may appeal the decision and seek a stay regarding the enforcement of this ruling.
In accordance with the recommendation of the New York State and County Departments of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Webster CSD will continue to require all students and staff to wear masks indoors for the health and safety of our community. In addition, we received communication this evening from the New York State Education Department stating that schools must continue to follow the current masking rule.
We are working with legal counsel to ascertain the implications of this litigation and any appeals. In the meantime, we appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through this issue.
All my best,
Superintendent of Schools
Monroe County Council of School Superintendents President Bo Wright Monday night tweeted "School leaders are aware of a ruling by a state judge on Long Island today that deemed the governor’s mask mandate unconstitutional. This evening, NYSED announced that the mask mandate remains in effect in schools based on the state’s intent to appeal. More information to follow."
School leaders are aware of a ruling by a state judge on Long Island today that deemed the governor’s mask mandate unconstitutional. This evening, NYSED announced that the mask mandate remains in effect in schools based on the state’s intent to appeal. More information to follow.— Lawrence Bo Wright (@LawrenceBoWrig1) January 25, 2022
On Tuesday, he released the following statement:
"Local school districts continue to examine the implications of a ruling made by a state judge on Long Island yesterday. The judge found the state’s mask mandate to be unconstitutional. Soon after that ruling was issued, the New York State Education Department announced that the mask mandate remains in effect in schools based on the state’s decision to appeal. A decision regarding that appeal is expected today [Tuesday] or tomorrow [Wednesday].
"We realize this has caused confusion and frustration. Local school districts are relying on the guidance they receive from their legal counsel. Based on what we know, students in Monroe County are still required to mask. District leaders will update their school communities as soon as they can. Thank you for your patience."
Hochul released the following statement after 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. We strongly disagree with this ruling, and we are pursuing every option to reverse this immediately."
Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt sent the following statement on the ruling:
"Nearly two years ago, New York became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our state was shut down, our schools were closed, and our economy was decimated.
"Nearly 700 days later, today’s ruling by a NYS Supreme Court Judge reinforces what my Republican colleagues and I have said from the beginning: it’s past time for Governor Hochul and Democrat One-Party Rule to end the mandates.
"New Yorkers are fed up — and they are counting on us to return to a system of governance based on collaborative decision making, guidance, checks and balances."
Read the full decision below (mobile users, click here):
Read the state’s appeal below (mobile users, click here):