Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling from a Circuit Court in Palm Beach County that challenged the constitutionality of Palm Beach County’s mask mandate ordinance. Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel both have mask ordinances.
Josie Machovec, Carl Holme, Karen Holme, Rachel Eade and Robert Spreitzer challenged the Palm Beach County ordiance as an unconstitutional infringement on their right to privacy.
The trial court upheld the mask ordinance, finding “the requirement to wear such a covering has a clear rational basis based on the protection of public health” and that the issuance of the emergency order was a “policy decision” based on “a reasonable and logical conclusion.”
The five people that filed the suit argued that requiring the general population to use face coverings abridges the constitutional right to refuse medical treatment and said the trial court erred in analyzing their challenge to the ordinance by “rational basis review” rather than “strict scrutiny.” They request remand for a new “strict scrutiny” review.
The Appeals Court said the argument on appeal fails because the residents did not establish that the County’s emergency order mandating the wearing of face coverings intrudes on their constitutional right to refuse medical treatment. “The mask mandate is directed to protecting the health, vis-à-vis the coronavirus, of people in the proximity of the mask wearer, with facial coverings providing a “mitigating measure” to help prevent the respiratory droplets coming from the mask wearer’s mouth or nose from traveling in the air and “onto other people.”
The Appeals Court went on to say that with no viable constitutional claim having been raised by the arguments, “we conclude that the trial court properly subjected Appellants’ claim to rational basis review in determining that the facial covering mandate “has a clear rational basis based on the protection of public health.”
The trial court’s order denying the Verified Emergency Motion for Temporary Injunction was affirmed.
Fort Myers Beach Town Attorney John Herin told the Fort Myers Beach Town Council that while the town is not within the 4th DCA’s geographic boundaries, “this is the first Florida appellate court decision on this issue. At a minimum it is persuasive, and it is the leading legal guidance we have from the courts on this issue.”
Read the ruling from the District Court of Appeals HERE.