Judge trashes, blocks California COVID-19 misinformation law – SFGATE

A federal judge has halted enforcement of California’s controversial COVID-19 “misinformation” law, which would punish doctors for straying from “the contemporary scientific consensus” on the pandemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2098 in Sept. 2022, stating he believed it was “narrowly tailored to apply only to those egregious instances in which a licensee is acting with malicious intent or clearly deviating from the required standard of care while interacting directly with a patient under their care.”

In an SFGATE op-ed last year, California physician Dr. Tracy Beth Høeg argued that AB 2098’s definition of “misinformation” was too broad and that “the contemporary scientific consensus” is always changing. Høeg and other doctors sued the state, alleging that the law violates the First Amendment’s free speech protections and 14th Amendment’s due process protections. They were granted that request on Wednesday by Judge William B. Shubb, who was not kind to AB 2098 in his opinion.

“Defendants argue that while the scientific consensus may sometimes be difficult to define, there is a clear scientific consensus on certain issues — for example, that apples contain sugar, that measles is caused by a virus, or that Down’s syndrome is caused by a chromosomal abnormality,” Shubb wrote of California’s arguments. “However, AB 2098 does not apply the term ‘scientific consensus’ to such basic facts, but rather to COVID-19 — a disease that scientists have only been studying for a few years, and about which scientific conclusions have been hotly contested. COVID-19 is a quickly evolving area of science that in many aspects eludes consensus.”

Shubb, an appointee of former President George H.W. Bush, also wrote that the law’s definition of what classifies as “misinformation” is “grammatically incoherent” and thus unconstitutionally vague. He had signaled he would grant the doctors’ request at a Monday hearing, in which he told California’s lawyers that their definition of “misinformation” was “nonsense.”

The ruling was not a final judgment on the constitutionality of the law but rather a temporary halt against enforcement while litigation continues. California can appeal to have the injunction lifted.