- DOJ attorneys defended federal mask mandates against a lawsuit calling them unconstitutional.
- Lucas Wall sued the CDC, President Joe Biden, and other government agencies in June.
- Wall’s claims were meritless, DOJ attorneys said in a Monday filing.
The US government has defended the legality of its mask mandates, filing a point-by-point rebuttal against a complaint in Florida that said such mandates were unconstitutional.
This week’s filing appeared to be the first time the government laid out a lengthy legal defense against claims that mask mandates put in place during the pandemic were illegal.
The filing included 88 pages of rebuttals and another 70 pages of exhibits. It was filed by high-level government officials, including Brian M. Boynton, acting assistant attorney general.
Lucas Wall, a frequent flyer who said he cannot wear a mask because of a medical condition, in June sued the CDC, President Joe Biden, and a handful of other federal agencies. He also sued seven airlines.
Wall said he was stranded at his mother’s home in The Villages, Florida, during the pandemic because he couldn’t board a plane without a mask.
“At the outset, Plaintiff’s constitutional right to interstate travel is not threatened here, for the simple reason that he is free to leave Florida at any time — by land, air, or sea,” federal lawyers wrote in their response.
Wall’s complaint had charged the government with 21 violations of the Constitution, laws, and regulations. In phone conversations before the government’s filing, Wall and senior government lawyers agreed to dismiss five complaints.
The government on Monday laid out its case against the remaining 16 charges. It said some of the claims weren’t in the federal court’s jurisdiction. It said other claims were “meritless” and should be dismissed.
“For those who seek to use our nation’s public-transportation systems during a global pandemic, Congress has entrusted those judgments to the medical experts at the CDC — not to Mr. Wall, and, respectfully, not to the courts,” the government lawyers wrote.
Mask mandates were just part of the government’s day-to-day responsibilities as it tried to stop COVID-19 from spreading, the filing said. The mandate “easily clears that low bar,” it said.
The lawsuits Wall brought in federal court in Orlando also said the mandates discriminated against people who couldn’t wear masks because of medical conditions. Wall previously attempted to take his case directly to the Supreme Court, saying he would have to forfeit upcoming trips because he couldn’t wear a mask.
The government on Monday argued that Wall was free to make his own medical decisions. But he and other travelers didn’t have a right to place “others at risk of communicable diseases while traveling in interstate commerce.”
“And there is no constitutional right ‘to not have a policy imposed on [him],’ that he thinks is harmful — that is one of the basic tradeoffs of living in a society, with a government that is authorized to make policy choices that individual citizens may not support,” the lawyers said.
Wall, who is representing himself, said he expects to file an about 50-page response to the government within a few days. A federal judge would then decide whether to hear oral arguments.
“One of the key issues here is that Congress has not passed any of these mandates into law,” Wall said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “The CDC is making these up and citing authority in previous laws that just doesn’t exist.”