Trump-Appointed Judge Deemed ‘Not Qualified’ by Bar Association Voids Mask Mandate on Planes, Other Travel

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A Trump-appointed Federal judge in Florida has voided a national mask mandate for airplanes and other transportation. “Wearing a mask cleans nothing,” U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle wrote in her decision on Monday. “At most, it traps virus droplets. But it neither ‘sanitizes’ the person wearing the mask nor ‘sanitizes’ the conveyance.”

Mizelle, 35, was only eight years out of law school at University of Florida when Trump appointed her to the lifetime position in 2020. The Daily Beast noted at the time that her only trial experience was as an intern, and that she held four clerkships, including one for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Mizelle was rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association prior to her appointment, citing her lack of experience.

The transportation mandate case on which Mizelle ruled was filed on behalf of a group known as Health Freedom Defense Fund, as well as airline passengers. Mizelle said that the Centers for Disease Control had exceeded its legal authority, that it had failed to justify its decision and follow comment protocols, and that the mandate was “arbitrary and capricious,” according to The Washington Post. The CDC had announced earlier this month that it extended its mask mandate to May 3.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it will no longer enforce the mask mandate in light of Mizelle’s decision, according to CNN.

The Biden administration was dismayed by the ruling. “This is obviously a disappointing decision,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing on Monday. “The CDC continues recommending wearing a mask in public transit.”

Psaki said the administration is “reviewing the decision” and that “the Department of Justice would be making any determinations about any litigation.” Psaki told reporters on Air Force One on Tuesday that the Justice Department may indeed appeal the ruling. “It typically takes a couple of days to review and make an assessment,” she said, according to Politico.

For now, however, the mask mandate is no more, and major airlines like American, Delta, United, Southwest, Alaskan, JetBlue, and Frontier have all released statements saying masks will no longer be required on their flights. Same goes for Amtrak.

It’s not that simple, though. Several airports are still requiring masks in their terminals to comply with state guidelines. Masks may also still be required on international flights traveling to certain countries. “Please note face masks may still be required based on local ordinances, or when traveling to/from certain international locations based on country requirements,” a statement from American Airlines read.

Mizelle’s ruling was welcomed by Republicans who have been fighting mandates throughout the pandemic. The party’s leaders on the House and Senate transportation committees pressured the Biden administration earlier this month to end the mandate or decline to extend it. The Senate voted last month to overturn the public health order requiring masks on airplanes and public transit, and, as the Post points out, 21 states, most of which are led by Republicans, sued the government seeking to end the mask mandate. CEOs from airline companies have also urged Biden to lift the mandate.

Fortunately for the mandate’s opponents, the former president was able to appoint a slew of unqualified judges.

This post has been updated.