May 18, 2024

Federal Court Halts California Law Punishing Doctors for COVID ‘Misinformation’

“Who decides what is ‘Covid misinformation?’”

Federal Court Halts California Law Punishing Doctors for COVID ‘Misinformation’

A federal court has issued a stay against a California law that would punish doctors for providing alleged “misinformation” about COVID-19.

A federal court has issued a temporary stay against a California law that would punish doctors for providing alleged “misinformation” about COVID-19 — though even experts have been wrong about the pandemic.

As Breitbart News reported last year:

The bill, AB 2098, introduced in February, “would designate the dissemination or promotion of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, or ‘COVID-19,’ as unprofessional conduct. The bill would require the board to consider specified factors prior to bringing a disciplinary action against a physician and surgeon. The bill would also make findings and declarations in this regard.”

According to one law firm that represents physicians in disciplinary proceedings in California, if a doctor is found to have committed professional misconduct, “the minimum penalty is a stayed revocation with 5 years of license probation, with a maximum penalty of revocation.”

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, a federal judge halted the implementation of the law on Wednesday because the scientific consensus on “misinformation” is simply too vague:

Judge William B. Schubb of the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California granted the motion filed by a group of doctors for a preliminary injunction. Schubb said that, because the “scientific consensus” (on COVID, in this case) is ill-defined and vague, the physician plaintiffs in the lawsuit are “unable to determine if their intended conduct contradicts the scientific consensus, and accordingly ‘what is prohibited by the law.”

The New Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group, represents five physicians licensed by the Medical Board of California. The five doctors alleged the law, AB 2098, would be in violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Schubb said that it would be hard to determine which scientific conclusions are false, given that COVID-19 is “such a new and evolving area of scientific study.”

In the early stages of the pandemic, experts advised against wearing masks — then demanded that they be mandatory. Public health officials in California, including Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), urged the closing of beaches to deter crowds — then urged residents to take to the streets in large crowds for “Black Lives Matter” protests.

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New California Law to Punish Doctors for ‘Covid Misinformation’ Heard in Federal Court

AB 2098 sought to punish physicians and surgeons for “unprofessional conduct” for advocating for the potential benefits of early treatment with off-label drugs, or those who dare to ask questions about COVID vaccine safety

New California Law to Punish Doctors for ‘Covid Misinformation’ Heard in Federal Court

“When seeing a doctor in California now, it is important to understand that you are now visiting a servant of some politicians, not an evidence-based medical professional,” a doctor posted on Twitter in early January. “So health advice should be taken in that “context.”

“When seeing a doctor in California now, it is important to understand that you are now visiting a servant of some politicians, not an evidence-based medical professional,” a doctor posted on Twitter in early January. “So health advice should be taken in that “context.”

He was referring to California’s new law to punish doctors for spreading “Covid misinformation,” which went into effect January 1, 2023. Assembly Bill 2098 authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, circumvents due process against doctors over “Covid misinformation conduct,” and quashes their right to free speech.

AB 2098 punishes physicians and surgeons for “unprofessional conduct” for advocating for the potential benefits of early treatment with off-label drugs, or those who dare to ask questions about COVID vaccine safety.

It has already been used as a weapon to intimidate and punish doctors who dissent from mainstream views, lawyers with the New Civil Liberties Alliance reports. “Physicians have already experienced threats from other doctors and individuals on social media to use AB 2098 to have their licenses taken away, an obvious attempt to suppress the doctors’ speech.”

Physicians filed a lawsuit in November against the State of California over the new law, which attorneys say violates the 1st and 14th Amendments (free speech and due process).

The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group, and attorney Laura Powell filed a complaint and motion for a preliminary injunction on behalf of five California doctors in Høeg, et al. v. Newsom, et al.,asking the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California to prevent AB 2098 from going into effect.

The lawsuit had its first hearing Monday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

The Globe spoke briefly with attorney Laura Powell who was at the hearing and reported Judge William Shubb acknowledged in court that the new law is not clear at all.

The NCLA just issued a statement confirming this:

During the argument, Judge Shubb called the law’s definition of misinformation “nonsense.” NCLA represents five physicians licensed by the Medical Board of California. NCLA argued that the term “contemporary scientific consensus” is undefined in the law and is arguably undefinable, which violates Plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process of law. Practically speaking, no doctor can know, at any given time, the “consensus” of doctors and scientists on various matters related to prevention and treatment of Covid-19. In the argument, Judge Shubb explored the novelty of doctors now following a supposed “contemporary scientific consensus.”

“At a hearing on NCLA’s motion to enjoin AB 2098, we explained to the Court why this Act is nothing more than a blatant attempt to silence doctors whose views, though based on thorough scientific research deviate from the government-approved ‘party line.’ At no point during the hearing was the State able to articulate the line between permissible and impermissible speech, further illustrating how problematic the statute is. NCLA is confident that the Court appreciates all of the problems created by AB2098 and is hopeful that in light of these problems the Court will reach a correct decision and enjoin this unconstitutional law.” -Greg Dolin, M.D., Senior Litigation Counsel, NCLA

As attorney Laura Powell of Californians for Good Governance noted in 2022, “Since AB 2098 explicitly restricts speech based on its content, it is presumptively invalid. The bill does not address the problem identified. The bill’s authors and supporters point to the problem of doctors who widely amplify falsehoods about Covid-19, but silencing them would violate the Constitution. To remedy the constitutional problems, it would have to be pared down to the point that it would simply duplicate existing law. Proponents are unable to cite a single example of a harm that could be prevented.”

The Globe spoke with plaintiff Dr. Pete Mazolewski several times during the legislative process for AB 2098. He asked somewhat rhetorically, “Who decides what is ‘Covid misinformation?’”

Apparently it is California’s Medical Board, which is currently made up of 12 individuals: 6 Medical Doctors, 3 attorneys, a Public Relations consultant, an “Ethics Reformer,” and a Life Coach.

Under AB 2098, doctors would be subject to disciplinary actions by the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California if they do not adhere to the “approved COVID treatment consensus.”

Who approves the “consensus,” Dr. Pete asked. The medical board? Public health officials? Neither the members of the Medical Board nor all of California’s public health officials are licensed medical doctors, he told the Globe. “Yet this is a California Medical Board decision.”

This is the first test case on “Covid misinformation” by medical providers in the United States. The Globe will report on any rulings from the court.

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Court Enjoins California’s Bar on Doctors Giving “False Information” on Covid

Court Enjoins California’s Bar on Doctors Giving “False Information” on Covid

With the recent passage of AB 2098, California took a highly controversial step in barring doctors from offering “false information” on Covid-19 and related subjects. The law is an extension of Democratic efforts to block or censor “misinformation” and “disinformation” in society from social media to medicine.

With the recent passage of AB 2098, California took a highly controversial step in barring doctors from offering “false information” on Covid-19 and related subjects. The law is an extension of Democratic (Party) efforts to block  or censor “misinformation” and “disinformation” in society from social media to medicine. However, this effort involves direct government action.

As will come as little surprise to many on this blog, I opposed the measure as unconstitutionally vague and a threat to free speech. Nevertheless, Judge Fred Slaughter (C.D. Cal.) in McDonald v. Lawson held that this statute was likely constitutional and rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction. Now, however Judge William Shubb (E.D. Cal.) has reached the opposite conclusion in Hoeg v. Newsom, granting an injunction.

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