Ninth Circuit Court Brings an End to California Physician Censorship Case

February 29, 2024

On February 29, the Liberty Justice Center announced the close of McDonald v. Lawson, its case challenging California’s blatant violation of the First Amendment through its physician censorship law, Assembly Bill 2098 (AB 2098).

When enacted, AB 2098 empowered bureaucrats to revoke doctors’ medical licenses if they shared opinions with their patients that disagreed with the State of California’s official beliefs about COVID-19—in clear violation of the First Amendment. The Liberty Justice Center challenged the censorship law on behalf of plaintiffs Dr. Mark McDonald and Dr. Jeff Barke, two California physicians who argued that the law infringed upon their right to free speech and hindered their ability to care for their patients.

The Liberty Justice Center filed the first federal lawsuit challenging AB 2098, McDonald v. Lawson, in October 2022. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments in the case in July 2023. After a year of litigation, the Liberty Justice Center announced a victory for free speech when Governor Gavin Newsom recognized the inevitable and signed the law’s repeal.

The repeal went into effect January 1, 2024. Because the state is no longer able to enforce AB 2098, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed McDonald v. Lawson as moot on February 29, 2024.

“We are thrilled to have won this victory for the right to free speech in California, and stand ready to fight this battle in any other states that attempt to censor doctors or other professionals,” said Jacob Huebert, President of the Liberty Justice Center. “We regret that the courts were unable to hold the state accountable for its flagrant violation of the First Amendment, but we’re pleased that our case led to the law’s repeal and that California’s doctors are again free to give patients their best, honest advice.”

The Liberty Justice Center’s filings in McDonald v. Lawson are available here.


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