Appellate judges say the legal fight over COVID transportation masking is moot
A Tampa-based federal judge in April 2022 halted a mandate that people wear masks on planes, trains and buses. The appellate panel cited the end to the public health emergency.
A federal appeals court Thursday ended a Florida-based legal fight over whether airplane passengers and other travelers could be required to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the case is moot, as a mask requirement “no longer exists.”
Tampa-based U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in April 2022 halted a federal mandate that people wear masks on planes, trains and buses to try to prevent the spread of the virus.
Mizelle, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump, ruled that the mask requirement exceeded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s authority under a law known as the Public Health Services Act and refuted arguments that the requirement was a legal sanitation measure.
The dispute went to the Atlanta-based appeals court, but the three-judge panel Thursday vacated Mizelle’s ruling and ordered the case be dismissed as moot.
In part, the panel pointed to the recent end of a federally declared public health emergency. It said the mask mandate, if it had been in effect, would have expired with the end of the public health emergency.
“By its own terms, the mandate expired after the HHS (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) secretary declared that the public health emergency has ended, and there is no hint that this decision was an effort to avoid further litigation,” said the ruling, written by Judge Charles Wilson and joined by Judges Adalberto Jordan and Andrew Brasher.
“Further, nothing in the text of the mandate suggests it can be revived after its expiration, and there is not a grain of evidence that the CDC has any plans to promulgate an identical mandate.”