New York State Supreme Court Deems COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Provisions Unconstitutional

The New York Supreme Court has ruled the regulations established by the State Department of Health in response to COVID-19 as unconstitutional.

Judge Ronald Ploetz of Cattaraugus County ruled in favor of state Senator George Borrello, who originally sued the state’s health department for violation of separation of power. 

The policy, NYCRR 2.13, was initially put in place as an emergency measure back in February and has since been renewed for multiple 90-day intervals. In fact, the latest renewal has caused the regulation to be in effect until July 20 and is currently pending permanent adoption.

The policy gives health department officials and local health authorities permission to mandate isolation and quarantine for individuals that may have been exposed to illness in addition to requiring an individual to quarantine somewhere outside of their own home.

“The provisions closely resemble the provisions in the controversial Assembly Bill 416, which was proposed prior to the pandemic and never received the legislative support required to move forward,” according to the Olean Times Herald.

“The expansive emergency powers that were given to the Executive Branch during the pandemic set a dangerous precedent that was ripe for abuse,” Senator Borrello said in a statement to the outlet.

“Reluctant to relinquish the unrivaled authority that accompanied New York’s ‘state of emergency’, the governor sought to improperly use the agency rulemaking process as another conduit for unilateral control,” Borrello said. “If we allowed that to occur unchallenged, it would be inviting further violations of the constitutional separation of powers.”

Judge Ploetz noted in the ruling that Public Health Law 2120 already meets requirements for public safety without violating individual rights.

The New York Health Department’s regulations were also criticized by the judge for lacking due process protections and granting “the Commissioner … unfettered discretion to issue a quarantine or isolation for anyone, even if there is no evidence that person is infected or a carrier of the disease.”

The judge asserted that involuntary detention “is a severe deprivation of individual liberty, far more egregious than other health safety measures.”

“Much of the legal reasoning Ploetz relied upon for his decision came from the brief filed” by Assemblyman Andrew Goodel and Assemblyman Joe Giglio, both Republicans, which “the state’s attorneys tried to have withheld from Ploetz’ consideration,” according to Observer Today.

Borrello celebrated Ploetz ruling on Twitter.

“This is a victory for the citizens of New York!” he wrote.

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