A rule that allows the state Health Department to lawfully order someone to involuntarily isolate or quarantine to control a highly contagious disease, such as COVID-19, has been reinstated in a unanimous decision by a mid-level appellate court.
The ruling by the Fourth Judicial Department, which has jurisdiction in 22 counties in central and western New York, overturns a decision last year by a state Supreme Court justice in Cattaraugus County who found the rule violates the constitutional requirement for a separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches when promulgating rules as severe as involuntary isolation.
The Republican petitioners said they plan to appeal the decision to the state Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. The GOP officials, in a joint statement, expressed concern that the case could create precedent for “overreach into policymaking.”
The appellate division’s decision to overturn the lower court’s ruling was issued Friday and based on a technical issue with the lawsuit filed by Republican lawmakers and an organization.
The court found that the GOP officials and the organization did not sufficiently establish why they were so severely harmed, and that the trial court failed to adequately rule on the merits of whether the petitioners had a right to bring the case in the first place.
The panel pointed to a landmark state Court of Appeals decision on separation of powers, Silver v. Pataki, a 2001 case on budget powers between the Assembly and the governor.
To establish the right to bring a case, legislators “generally fall into one of three categories: lost political battles, nullification of votes and usurpation of power,” reads the decision in Silver v. Pataki. “Only circumstances presented by the latter two categories confer legislator standing.”
The Republican lawmakers — state Sen. George Borrello, Assemblyman Chris Tague and U.S. Rep. Mike Lawler, who was a member of the Assembly at the time of the filing — argued their legislative powers were usurped from them by the office of Gov. Kathy Hochul, which issued the isolation rule last year.
The court disagreed with the GOP members. The state “Legislature retains its power to address the regulation,” the panel wrote about the body controlled by a Democratic supermajority.
🚨 NEW — NY Appeals Court Reinstates Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Power to Enforce Quarantine Camps
“It allows the Dept. of Health to pick and choose which New Yorkers they can lockup or lockdown without any proof that you’re sick, without any proof you’ve been exposed to a communicable… pic.twitter.com/2jukPhBiRn
— Chief Nerd (@TheChiefNerd) November 22, 2023
In July 2022, state Supreme Court Justice Ronald D. Ploetz ruled that the isolation rule violated the constitutional requirement for a separation of powers between the two branches of government. He noted it had not been enacted by the state Legislature but by the administration of then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to respond to the escalating coronvarius pandemic.
“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,” Ploetz said.
The Republican officials, in a joint statement, described the ruling as a “calamitous decision.”
“This has been a ‘David v. Goliath’ fight from the beginning on many levels, so it is not surprising that the state, with its limitless resources, has effectuated a win this round,” the GOP statement said. “We will never stop fighting for New Yorkers against government overreach.” [NTD, TU]
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