Mandate Litigation, Legislation and Political Posturing in West Virginia

While our telephones and email flood with messages from upset parents, angry about the forced masking of our children, an unlikely hero comes to the rescue. However, he completely messed up. He’s attempting to score for the opposing team. Democrat nominee for W. Va. Attorney General in the 2020 election, in the name of allegedly protecting civil rights for multiple children, filed a lawsuit against the Governor and various school entities to attempt to force a comprehensive statewide mask mandate for children. He is essentially suing to force the Governor to issue an emergency executive order.

Where do I begin? If the Supreme Court wouldn’t let me force the Governor to call the legislature into session last year, in lieu of just issuing incessant executive orders, I can’t imagine they would allow an anti-civil rights lawyer to force him to actually issuing an executive order. We can take issue with the scope of the Governor’s emergency powers, but the concept that the Governor gets to issue, or not issue, his own executive orders, seems pretty uncontroversial. Though I suppose it’s having the desired effect of convincing various county school boards to reverse their prior decisions on a local level, which several have apparently done in the past day or so.

At the same time, the Republican leadership in the W. Va. legislature sent a letter to the W. Va. Attorney General official asking him to give an opinion on whether employer vaccine mandates and vaccine passports are in violation of the West Virginia Constitution. First off, it’s the U.S. Constitution that stands any chance of going up against the mandates. Any analysis of the W. Va. Constitution is going to have to begin with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jacobson case from 1905. Because that would be the first case cited by the W. Va. Supreme Court, should they hear the issue.

Proponents of governmental overreach in the COVID era have consistently pointed to Jacobson as justification for whatever measures the government is undertaking for the purported goals of protecting the health and safety of their citizens, which in turn is utilized by both public and private employers to attempt to mandate vaccines on their employees. Jacobson opined on the role of the U.S. Constitution in controlling state police powers, as understood in 1905, granting states and local governments an affirmative carte blanche to engage in state disease control efforts.

What that means, is that as it currently stands, SCOTUS has said that the U.S. Constitution allows vaccine mandates in the past. So if W. Va. has carte blanche to engage in disease control efforts, the ball is squarely in the State Legislature’s court. No federal court or caselaw is likely going to stop it. The only way to stop broad employer mandates right now, whether public or private, is through legislative action. That is a very real possibility right now in West Virginia, given the fact that numerous state legislators are currently calling for a special session to consider that very legislation.

Regarding Jacobson’s 1905 era values, let’s not forget that Jacobson’s legal rationale led to the case of Buck v. Bell, the infamous 1927 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found no restriction was placed on states’ police powers by the U.S. Constitution regarding a state’s public policy initiative to engage in involuntary sterilization of a woman who was purported to be of low intelligence. 274 U.S. 200 (1927). This decision by the SCOTUS gave the eugenics movement added legitimacy and considerable momentum. By 1931, 28 out of 48 states had adopted eugenic sterilization laws.

Jacobson left the door open for future refinement, conceding that state or local government could exercise police powers in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner. The ensuing future refinement came in the form of 20th century civil liberties which were recognized and developed by the courts. Since Jacobson, the Supreme Court has recognized numerous limits on health and safety regulations, including the right against involuntary restraint, decisions about marriage, contraception, procreation, family relationships, sexual relationships, child rearing and education, as well as the right to refuse life-saving treatment. Nobody is arguing that state police powers retain the ability to suppress any of these now-federally-recognized rights. But they want to leave the forced vaccine part in effect.

In addition to the rights itemized supra, the Supreme Court recognized, and continues to recognize, the right of bodily integrity, which was the category of freedom from government action, the higher order, under which the specific rights described in Roe, as well as Cruzan, fell. E.g., Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 915 (1992) (“One aspect of this liberty is a right to bodily integrity, a right to control one’s person.”). In Cruzan, Chief Justice Rehnquist reiterated in his majority opinion, “every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall e done with his own body….” Cruzan, 479 U.S. at 269.

West Virginia has also recognized the right to bodily integrity as a fundamental right. In the recent decision in Kruse v. Farid, 835 S.E.2d 163 (W. Va. 2019), the West Virginia Supreme Court noted that “all competent patients have the right to refuse medical care,” and that such right “has been recognized by both the United States Supreme Court and by the Legislature of this State.” Id. at 168. The W. Va. Court cited the SCOTUS, at length:

[a]t common law, even the touching of one person by another without consent and without legal justification was a battery. See W. Keeton, D. Dobbs, R. Keeton, & D. Owen, Prosser and Keeton on Law of Torts § 9, pp. 39-42 (5th ed. 1984). Before the turn of the century, this Court observed that “[n]o right is held more sacred, or is more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every individual to the possession and control of his own person, free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by clear and unquestionable authority of law.” Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford,

141 U.S. 250, 251[, 11 S. Ct. 1000, 1001, 35 L. Ed. 734] (1891). This notion of bodily integrity has been embodied in the requirement that informed consent is generally required for medical treatment. Justice Cardozo, while on the Court of Appeals of New York, aptly described this doctrine: “Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body[.]” Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital, 211 N.Y. 125, 129-130, 105 N.E. 92, 93 (1914) [, superseded by statute on other grounds as stated in Retkwa v. Orentreich , 584 N.Y.S.2d 710, 154 Misc. 2d 164 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1992) ]. The informed consent doctrine has become firmly entrenched in American tort law. See Keeton, Dobbs, Keeton, & Owen, supra, § 32, pp. 189-192; F. Rozovsky, Consent to Treatment, A Practical Guide 1-98 (2d ed. 1990).…

[T]he common-law doctrine of informed consent is viewed as generally encompassing the right of a competent individual to refuse medical treatment. Cruzan by Cruzan v. Dir., Mo. Dep’t of Health , 497 U.S. 261, 269-70, 277, 110 S.Ct. 2841, 111 L.Ed.2d 224 (1990). Accord Collins , 517 S.W.3d at 92 (” ‘All competent adults have a fundamental right to bodily integrity. … Included in this right is the right of competent adult patients to accept or reject medical treatment.’ ” (quoting Church v. Perales , 39 S.W.3d 149, 158 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2000) ) (additional citations omitted)). Likewise, the West Virginia Legislature has recognized this personal right to make health care decisions: “Common law tradition and the medical profession in general have traditionally recognized the right of a capable adult to accept or reject medical or surgical intervention affecting one’s own medical condition[.]” W. Va. Code § 16-30-2(b)(1) (LexisNexis 2016).

Kruse v. Farid, 835 S.E.2d 163, 168-69 (W. Va. 2019).

Thus, there is some basis in West Virginia state law in which to oppose mandates. However, it’s still grounded in federal constitutional law. You would expect the legislative leadership to know and understand this. Perhaps it’s just political posturing, sending a hardball to the Attorney General, in order to force him give the ultimate opinion that there’s nothing in the West Virginia Constitution which applies the mandate issues presented. What benefit does that confer to we the people, who are opposed to mandates? I can take the liberty of answering for the Attorney General that what the West Virginia Constitution does say, is that sole legislative power is vested in the legislature. Since SCOTUS believes state police powers control mandate law at the state level, the legislature should have the final say. At least unless our anti-civil rights hero gets his way. But do they have the political will?

Kentucky Judge Invalidates All of Governor Bashear’s State of Emergency Actions

Today my colleague from Kentucky, Chris Wiest, received an awesome ruling from the Circuit Court of Boone County declaring that all of Governor Andy Bashear’s emergency orders and actions are unconstitutional and void. The ruling was in the state-court challenge to the governor’s emergency powers executive orders, filed by Wiest on behalf of Beans Cafe’ & Bakery.

Dr. Stephen Petty, an actual expert in masks, testified at the trial about their uselessness under the circumstances in which they’re being idolized. Here’s an excerpt from the order pertaining to Dr. Petty. For those bureaucrats and social media tyrants who would censor this, this is from an actual court order issued today. Not that you care:

Stephen E. Petty, P.E., CIH, testified as an expert and was accepted as such without objection. Mr. Petty has served as an expert witness in approximately 400 cases relating to toxic or infectious exposure, personal protective equipment (“PPE”), and as a warning expert. He also served as an epidemiology expert for the plaintiffs in the Monsanto “Roundup” cases, and for those in the Dupont C8 litigation. In connection with his service as an expert, he was deposed nearly 100 times and has provided court testimony in approximately 20 trials. Mr. Petty holds nine U.S. patents, has written a book comprising nearly 1,000 pages on forensics engineering, is a certified industrial hygienist, and a recognized expert with the Occupational Safety and Health Agency. Mr. Petty helped write the rules on risk assessment for the State of Ohio and has trained Ohio’s risk assessors.

Mr. Petty explained that the field of his expertise is “to anticipate and recognize and control things that could hurt people, everything from making them sick to killing them.” He testified that, in this context, he has analyzed the use of masks and social distancing in connection with Covid-19. He testified that both the six-foot-distancing rule, and mask mandates, are wholly ineffective at reducing the spread of this virus. Masks are worthless, he explained, because they are not capable of filtering anything as small as Covid-19 aerosols. In addition, masks are not respirators and lack the limited protections that respirators can provide.

The N-95 respirator, which he states is in the bottom class of what may be classified as a respirator, is rated to filter 95% of all particles that are larger than .3 microns. However, a Covid-19 particle, which is only between .09 to .12 micron, is much smaller. Mr. Petty further explained that an N-95 will not even filter above .3 microns if it is not used in accordance with industry standards. Among the requirements, respirators must be properly fitted to seal along the face, and they also must be timely replaced. Mr. Petty stated that N-95 masks, which he said are often utilized as surgical masks, are “not intended to keep infectious disease from either the surgeon or from the patient infecting each other” but only to catch the “big droplets” from the surgeon’s mouth.”

According to Mr. Petty, masks have no standards, are not respirators, and do not even qualify as protective equipment. In contrast, respirators have standards, including rules that state respirators may not be worn by persons with facial hair, must be fitted to ensure a seal, and must be timely replaced—or, as in higher end respirators, the cartridges must be replaced to prevent saturation. In addition, standards for respirators also require users to obtain a medical clearance because the breathing restriction can impair lung function or cause other problems for persons having such limitations. Putting those persons in a respirator can harm their well-being.

Concerning the effectiveness of respirators, Mr. Petty explained that it comes down to “big stuff” versus “small stuff.” Big stuff can be taken out by the body’s defenses, such as its mucus tissue, where droplets can be caught and eliminated. The small stuff, however—like aerosols—are more dangerous. Masks cannot filter the small stuff. According to Petty, because Covid-19 particles are comprised of aerosols, it is really, really, small stuff. And, as he pointed out, an N-95 is designed to filter larger particles. Even for particles as large as .3 micron, Mr. Petty testified that an N-95’s effectiveness is in direct proportion to its seal. In fact, he stated it becomes completely ineffective if 3% or more of the contact area with the face is not sealed.

Mr. Petty testified that masks leak, do not filter out the small stuff, cannot be sealed, are commonly worn by persons with facial hair, and may be contaminated due to repetitive use and the manner of use. He emphatically stated that mask wearing provides no benefit whatsoever, either to the wearer or others.

He explained that the big droplets fall to the ground right away, the smaller droplets will float longer, and aerosols will remain suspended for days or longer if the air is stirred. Mr. Petty testified that the duration of time that particles remain suspended can be determined using “Stoke’s Law.” Based on it, for particles the size of Covid-19 (.12 to .09 micron) to fall five feet would take between 5 and 58 days in still air. Thus, particles are suspended in the air even from previous days. And so, he asks, “If it takes days for the particles to fall, how in the world does a six-foot rule have any meaning?”

Mr. Petty acknowledged that both OSHA and CDC have recommended that people wear masks. However, he called this “at best dishonest.”61 As an example on this, he pointed to CDC guidance documents where, on page 1, it recommends wearing a mask; but then on page 6, admits that “masks, do not provide . . . a reliable level of protection from . . . smaller airborne particles.”62 According to Mr. Petty, those agencies have smart individuals who know better. Mr. Petty points out that, even before March 2020, it was known that Covid-19 particles are tiny aerosols. And on this, he states that he insisted that fact early on. He also points to a more recent letter by numerous medical researchers, physicians and experts with Ph.D.s, asking the CDC to address the implications of Covid-19 aerosols. During Dr. Stack’s subsequent testimony, he also acknowledged that Covid-19 is spread “by . . . airborne transmission that could be aerosols . . . .”

Finally, Mr. Petty pointed to another recent study by Ben Sheldon of Stanford University out of Palo Alto. According to that study, “both the medical and non-medical face masks are ineffective to block human-to-human transmission of viral and infectious diseases, such as SARS, CoV-2 and COVID-19.”64 The Court finds the opinions expressed by Mr. Petty firmly established in logic. The inescapable conclusion from his testimony is that ordering masks to stop Covid-19 is like putting up chain-link fencing to keep out mosquitos. The six-foot- distancing requirements fare no better.

The judge summarizes the situation nicely:

It is obvious from even a cursory review that the orders issued over the past fifteen months “attempt to control” and seek “to form and determine future rights and duties” of Kentucky citizens. These included ordering the closure of all businesses, except those the Governor deemed essential. He ordered churches closed, prohibited social gatherings, including at weddings and funerals, prohibited travel, and through CHFS, even prohibited citizens from receiving scheduled surgeries and access to medical care. And then there is the order that everyone wear a mask. These are, undeniably, attempts to control, set policy, and determine rights and duties of the citizenry. Except in those instances where the federal courts have stepped in, Defendants assert authority to modify or re-impose these orders at their sole discretion. Consider, for example, the recent modification of the mask mandate. It orders persons who did not get vaccinated for Covid-19 to wear masks but lifts that requirement for others. That is setting policy and determining future rights and duties.

 At the hearing, Defendants took exception to the Attorney General’s characterization of the Governor’s actions as a “lockdown,” and argued that prohibiting persons from entering those restaurants is not the same as ordering that they be closed. But that doesn’t minimize the impact on those who lost their businesses as a result, or those in nursing homes condemned to spend their final hours alone, deprived of the comfort from loved ones (or even any real contact with humanity), or those citizens who the Governor prohibited from celebrating their wedding day with more than ten persons, or those he forced to bury their dead alone, without the consoling presence of family and friends (and who likewise were deprived of paying their final respects), or those persons who were barred from entering church to worship Almighty God during Holy Week, and even Easter Sunday, or those persons who were denied access to health care, including cancer-screenings, or those denied entry into government buildings (which they pay for with their taxes) in order to obtain a necessary license, and who were forced to wait outside for hours in the sweltering heat, or rain, purportedly to keep them from getting sick.

 What the people have endured over the past fifteen months—to borrow a phrase from United States District Judge Justin R. Walker—“is something this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel.” Yet, Defendants contend that the Governor’s rule by mere emergency decree must continue indefinitely, and independent of legislative limits. In effect, Defendants seek declaratory judgment that the Constitution provides this broad power so long as he utters the word, “emergency.” It does not. For this Court to accept Defendant’s position would not be honoring its oath to support the Constitution; it would be tantamount to a coup d’état against it.

Here’s the order itself:

Yes, life is now a dystopian novel. Let’s hope this patriot judge’s order stands up on appeal in the state appellate courts in Kentucky. And thanks to Chris Wiest and the AG of Kentucky for fighting the good fight. The order notes that the permanent injunction against the governor goes into effect on June 10, 2021 at 5:00 p.m.

Lockdowns Don’t Work, including in West Virginia

There was a good article from the Mises Institute, The Evidence Keeps Piling up: Lockdowns Don’t Work, by Ryan McMaken. Here in West Virginia, our it seems that it was our Governor’s proudest life achievement so far, that he “shut down” the state, and then got to create an entire new form of government, which he titled, “The Comeback.” At least while mommy and daddy legislature is still in hiding….. As McMaken noted:

The toll lockdowns have taken on human life and human rights has been incalculable. Increases in child abuse, suicide, and even heart attacks, all appear to be a feature of mandatory stay-at-home orders issued by politicians who now rule by decree without any legislative or democratic due process. And then, of course, there is the economic toll on employment, which will feed negative impacts into the longer term. The economic burden has fallen the most on the young and on working-class families, whose earners are least able to work from home.

These measures also have made a mockery of basic human rights while essentially expropriating private property. Mom-and-pop business owners were told to shut their doors indefinitely or face arrest. The unemployed were told it was now illegal to work for a living if their careers were deemed “nonessential.” Police officers have beaten citizens for not “social distancing” while mothers have been manhandled by cops for attempting to use playground equipment.

https://mises.org/wire/evidence-keeps-piling-lockdowns-dont-work

I’ve been saying, that since West Virginia’s greatest cause of death – one of the worst in the country – is heart disease. Yet our morbidly obese governor obviously doesn’t appreciate that fact. Our usual number of deaths due to heart disease floats just under 5,000. I wonder what it’s going to be this year? We’ll see, but it’s going to be high. This has been the year of the politician and the bureaucrat protecting themselves against the peasants. As McMaken describes, this was planned way in advance, during the Bush Administration, but at the time they viewed the concept of social distancing as “impractical, unnecessary and politically infeasible.” Now we have things like this occurring in a Presidential election:

WARREN, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 09: With his audience of union leadership and journalists socially distanced to reduce the risk posed by coronavirus, Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the parking lot outside the United Auto Workers Region 1 offices on September 09, 2020 in Warren, Michigan. Biden is campaigning in Michigan, a state President Donald Trump won in 2016 by less than 11,000 votes, the narrowest margin of victory in state’s presidential election history. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

One of the reasons the Bush bureaucrats decided a lockdown was infeasible is because lockdowns don’t work:

There is more than one reason, but one major reason is that lockdowns have never been shown to be particularly effective. And this lack of success in containment must also be weighed with the very real costs of forced isolation

https://mises.org/wire/evidence-keeps-piling-lockdowns-dont-work

A 2006 paper was published, called “Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza,” which cal

There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods in order to slow the spread of influenza. A World Health Organization (WHO) Writing Group, after reviewing the literature and considering contemporary international experience, concluded that “forced isolation and quarantine are ineffective and impractical.” Despite this recommendation by experts, mandatory large-scale quarantine continues to be considered as an option by some authorities and government officials.

The interest in quarantine reflects the views and conditions prevalent more than 50 years ago, when much less was known about the epidemiology of infectious diseases and when there was far less international and domestic travel in a less densely populated world. It is difficult to identify circumstances in the past half-century when large-scale quarantine has been effectively used in the control of any disease. The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme (forced confinement of sick people with the well; complete restriction of movement of large populations; difficulty in getting critical supplies, medicines, and food to people inside the quarantine zone) that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration.

http://www.liebertpub.com/publication.aspx?pub_id=111

But despite the 2006 conclusion, as the paper noted, politicians and bureaucrats don’t necessarily act in the best interests of people, or the nation, but rather in their own personal best interests. They will choose the fork in the road that increases their power – even if it decreases the freedom of the citizenry. That’s the clear explanation surrounding the West Virginia Governor. Clearly he’s adept at acting in his own best interests. He doesn’t pay his taxes. He doesn’t pay his bills. He obtained 24 MILLION DOLLARS IN PPP MONEY for his companies, and so on. Are we to believe that he took control over an entire state government just because he loves us, and he can’t bear to see us suffer? Where was his empathy when he was stiffing regular people and small businesses on his bills? When he said, here in West Virginia, “we’re all in this thing together,” he didn’t mention anything about the fact that the had lawyers and accountants behind the scenes getting him 24 million bucks while the rest of us peasants suffer, did he?

It’s about a power grab – not about saving lives. The evidence shows that lockdowns don’t work. They didn’t work:

Measuring from the start of the year to each state’s point of maximum lockdown—which range from April 5 to April 18—it turns out that lockdowns correlated with a greater spread of the virus. States with longer, stricter lockdowns also had larger Covid outbreaks. The five places with the harshest lockdowns—the District of Columbia, New York, Michigan, New Jersey and Massachusetts—had the heaviest caseloads.

Donald Luskin, The Wall Street Journal

There are other studies, as the Misis Institute listed:

July study published by The Lancet concluded: “The authors identified a negative association between the number of days to any lockdown and the total reported cases per million, where a longer time prior to implementation of any lockdown was associated with a lower number of detected cases per million.”

In April, T.J. Rogers looked at “a simple one-variable correlation of deaths per million and days to shutdown” and found that “The correlation coefficient was 5.5%—so low that the engineers I used to employ would have summarized it as “no correlation” and moved on to find the real cause of the problem. (The trendline sloped downward—states that delayed more tended to have lower death rates—but that’s also a meaningless result due to the low correlation coefficient.)”

In May, Elaine He at Bloomberg showed “there’s little correlation between the severity of a nation’s restrictions and whether it managed to curb excess fatalities.”

In an August 1 study, also published by The Lancet, the authors concluded, “Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and wide-spread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people.”

https://mises.org/wire/evidence-keeps-piling-lockdowns-dont-work

The evidence shows that there was no stopping the activity of the virus, where it was already present. Not even the incredibly-obnoxious virtue-signaling step of redoing your social media profile picture with you wearing a mask, had any positive effect on the pandemic. It was nothing more than political speech. Political speech which politicized a virus. The evidence shows nothing governments did, which had any effect on the virus where it was already present:

In a paper published with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), authors Andew Atkeson et al.found that covid-19 deaths followed a similar pattern “virtually everywhere in the world” and that “Failing to account for this familiar pattern risks overstating the importance of policy mandated NPIs (non pharmaceutical intervention) for shaping the progression of this deadly pandemic.”

https://mises.org/wire/evidence-keeps-piling-lockdowns-dont-work

So does this weak correlation between lockdowns and effect on COVID justify the tyrannical actions of governors across the United States, and most especially here in West Virginia?

Extraordinary measures require extraordinary evidence. And the burden of proof is on those who seek to use the coercive power of the state to force people into their homes, cripple the economy, and abolish countless basic freedoms for the duration. Have the advocates for lockdowns made their case? It’s hard to see how they have. For one, advocates for lockdowns need to present obvious and overwhelming evidence that lockdowns bring big benefits far in excess of the no-lockdown approach. They have not done so. Moreover, they have not shown that a lack of lockdowns is anywhere near as dangerous as they have claimed in the name of pushing lockdowns to begin with. We can already see what the no-lockdown scenario looks like. It looks like Sweden, and that’s a better outcome than many prolockdown regimes can claim. Governments are nonetheless likely to continue claiming their lockdowns worked. In ancient days, a witch doctor might perform a rain dance on Tuesday and claim credit when it rained on Wednesday. Lockdowns are increasingly looking like the modern equivalent of a rain dance. 

https://mises.org/wire/evidence-keeps-piling-lockdowns-dont-work

That’s what Governor Justice is doing. He’s doing a rain dance for the public. Some thank him for it. Some hate him for it. And all suffer for it. Well, except the (executive branch) politicians and bureaucrats…..