The court found that refusing to wear a mask during a public health emergency didn’t amount to free speech protected by the Constitution.
Years after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, disputes over discipline for doctors who allegedly spread COVID-19 misinformation are still playing out in court.
A professor at a public university in Michigan was suspended with pay after posting a profanity-laced video to his incoming students. Professor Barry Mehler, a history professor at Ferris State University, posted the 14-minute long video that begins with him wearing an astronaut helmet over a face mask, and tells his students they are “vectors of disease,” and that “it is dangerous to breathe the air.”
Disinformation is more pernicious and widespread today than at any other point in history, largely because of social media and the Internet. For instance, it is now widely known—and verified by the U.S. intelligence community—that Russians interfered with the 2016 presidential election.
A doctor who former president Donald Trump once promoted on his Twitter account filed a $100 million libel suit against CNN and anchor Anderson Cooper for allegedly tarnishing her medical reputation.
On May 20th, Chinese Americans Civil Rights Coalition, a nonprofit organization, filed a defamation lawsuit against former President Trump both in his former official capacity and as a private citizen for his comments about COVID-19. The complaint includes a list of Trump’s allegedly defamatory statements, including tweets and campaign speeches in which Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus,” “China virus,” “China plague,” and “kung flu.”
On May 5th, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court — the highest court in Massachusetts — ruled that a virtual suppression hearing conducted via Zoom violated neither the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights nor the public’s First Amendment right to access court proceedings. Nevertheless, the court reversed the trial judge’s ruling that had rejected the defendant’s motion for a continuance.
On April 22nd, the First Amendment Coalition (FAC), a nonprofit public interest organization, filed a lawsuit against Ventura County in Southern California. FAC alleges the County violated the California Public Records Act (CPRA) after failing to appropriately respond to two requests for information regarding data on COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths, thus violating the right of access under the First Amendment.