Cuomo’s N.Y. Quarantine Upheld by Court After Arizonan Sues

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s imposition of a two-week quarantine order on people traveling to New York from states that have high levels of coronavirus infection doesn’t violate the Constitution, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge David Hurd in Utica, New York, dismissed a lawsuit filed by Arizona resident Cynthia Page, who claimed Cuomo’s June 24 executive order violated her constitutional right to travel freely within the U.S. The order requires those traveling to New York from states on a restricted list, which includes Arizona, to self-quarantine for 14 days or face a possible $10,000 fine.

“States around the country are grappling with an unfolding public health crisis,” Hurd said in a 25-page ruling on Tuesday. “At best, Page has alleged state action that might be considered ‘incorrect or ill-advised,’” but not a violation of her constitutional rights, the judge said.

The judge cited a 1905 Supreme Court decision that said Massachusetts could enforce a mandatory vaccination order to deal with a smallpox outbreak. The high court ruling in Jacobson v. Massachusetts has been interpreted to empower states to temporarily curtail constitutional rights in the face of a public-health emergency, as long as the measures taken aren’t arbitrary.

The 115-year-old precedent has also recently been cited by courts upholding stay-at-home orders and other restrictions issued by governors in response to the pandemic.

In her July 1 lawsuit, Page said she had planned to fly to New York City to help friends pack up belongings in a house they were planning to sell. She claimed she was forced to cancel her plans because of the quarantine requirement, which she called “arbitrary, capricious, and irrational.”

Page’s lawyer, David Yerushalmi of the American Freedom Law Center, said he was appealing Hurd’s decision. “We are of the view that as a country we will look back on this and similar decisions as driven by fear and not by law,” he said, comparing the ruling to that which upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.

More than half the states, as well as U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, are on New York’s restricted list, which targets places where the Covid-19 positive test rate is higher than 10 per 100,000 residents.

The case is Page v. Cuomo, 20-CV-00732, U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York (Utica).

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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