A punitive California law that gave the state medical board the power to punish doctors for spreading alleged COVID-19 misinformation has been put on hold by a federal judge.
Judge William B. Shubb of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California temporarily halted the law after opponents of the measure began the process of challenging it in court.
Five doctors filed a lawsuit against state leaders, claiming the law violates their First Amendment rights to free speech and expression and their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process of law.
"The term “contemporary scientific consensus” is undefined in the law and undefinable as a matter of logic," said a spokesperson for the group. "No one can know, at any given time, the “consensus” of doctors and scientists on various matters related to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19."
Judge Shubb, an appointee during the Bush administration, sided with the group stating, “COVID-19 is such a new and evolving area of scientific study, it may be hard to determine which scientific conclusions are ‘false’ at a given point in time." He went on to describe the term "misinformation" as "unconstitutionally vague."
Shubb highlighted that while the California state government maintained that there is a definite scientific consensus on certain issues, the law does not use this consensus for "fundamental facts" such as Down's syndrome being caused by a chromosomal abnormality. He added that COVID-19 is a disease that scientists have only been studying for a few years and scientific conclusions surrounding it are still widely debated.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, who signed the legislation into law, has yet to respond to the decision.