On October 1, the Liberty Justice Center announced a victory for free speech as California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill repealing Assembly Bill 2098 (AB2098), a law that empowered California bureaucrats to revoke physicians’ medical licenses for disagreeing with the State’s official beliefs about COVID-19. Now, the Liberty Justice Center is continuing the fight for free speech by urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to issue an injunction against AB2098 to protect doctors’ First Amendment rights before the repeal takes effect in January 2024.
The Liberty Justice Center filed McDonald v. Lawson in October 2022 to challenge AB2098. After Newsom signed a repeal of AB2098—which he had signed into law only a year earlier—the Court requested that the parties submit briefs addressing whether the lawsuit was now moot.
In its brief, filed October 31, the Liberty Justice Center explains that the case is not moot and that, until the repeal takes effect in January, doctors’ speech is still being chilled by the law. For this reason, the brief urges the Court to grant an injunction against enforcing AB2098 to protect physicians’ First Amendment rights until the repeal takes effect.
In addition, the Liberty Justice Center’s brief argues that the Court should rule on the case, rather than dismissing it as “anticipatorily moot,” because it presents the Court with the opportunity to rule on an important recurring issue: government efforts to suppress dissenting speech in the name of restricting “misinformation.”
“I am delighted that we will no longer be threatened with license suspension for speaking to our patients honestly,” said plaintiff Dr. Mark McDonald to media about the repeal of AB2098. “I’m still hoping, though, that there will be a court ruling, because it would be wonderful to have a legal precedent to stop this from happening again.”
“It is critical that we get a ruling to make clear to legislators that this type of law violates our basic, constitutional right to free speech,” agreed plaintiff Dr. Jeff Barke.
“We should celebrate the repeal of Assembly Bill 2098, but we shouldn’t view it as the end of the story,” said Liberty Justice Center President Jacob Huebert. “Regulations that target and censor ‘misinformation’ as this law did present a growing threat to freedom. The Ninth Circuit Court has the opportunity to provide a check against such abuses in the future by upholding First Amendment rights in this case.”
The Liberty Justice Center’s filings in the case are available here.