July 11, 2022
This morning we sent you an article that discussed a recent NY state Supreme Court decision that appears to toss out NY’s isolation and quarantine protocol. Below is more detail from the Albany Times Union about the case that led to a Supreme Court judge in Cattaraugus County ruling that the protocol is unconstitutional.
As follow-up, I reached out to all 3 state agencies today (OASAS, OMH, DoH) to inquire as to implications for our programs and services. I am waiting responses. I suspect today was a busy day for all of the agencies and one can also imagine that, in the Governor’s Office, there’s a discussion going on as to whether the state should appeal the ruling.
ALBANY — In a decision that could impact the management of future health crises, a state Supreme Court justice in western New York ruled that the state’s new-minted isolation and quarantine procedures were produced by an unconstitutional process.
In a case brought by three Republican state legislators, state Supreme Court Justice Ronald Ploetz of Cattaraugus County shut down Rule 2.13, which states that “whenever appropriate to control the spread of a highly contagious communicable disease,” the state health commissioner may issue and/or direct local health officials “to issue isolation and/or quarantine orders, consistent with due process of law, to all such persons as the State Commissioner of Health shall determine appropriate.”
In his opinion, Ploetz said the rule — enacted in February — gave only “lip service” to constitutional due process; he declared it to be in violation of state law, and therefore null, void and unenforceable.
The judge said the law could conceivably grant the commissioner the power to force anyone into isolation or quarantine, despite a lack of evidence that a person is infected with COVID-19.
“Involuntary detention is a severe deprivation of individual liberty, far more egregious than other health safety measures, such as requiring mask-wearing at certain venues,” he wrote. “Involuntary quarantine may have far-reaching consequences such as loss of income (or employment) and isolation from family.”
The case was brought by Sen. George Borrello of Chautauqua County as well as Assembly members Chris Tague of Schoharie and Michael Lawler of Rockland County. The defendants included Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York Commissioner of Health Mary T. Bassett and her agency, and the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature amended executive law and gave the governor broad power to suspend laws and issue directives through executive orders. Former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in turn, modified public health law to give the health commissioner the ability to enact emergency regulations.
To come to the decision, Ploetz considered “whether the agency did more than balance costs and benefits according to preexisting guidelines, whether the agency filled in details of a broad policy, whether the Legislature has unsuccessfully tried to reach agreement on the issue and whether the agency used special expertise or competence in the field to develop the challenged regulation.”
It is unclear whether the case could be headed for appeal. A representative for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.