SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – You have probably heard about how Florida federal Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle “voided” the Center for Disease Control’s federal extension on mask mandates for travel on planes in the US as of April 18th, 2022. If so, here’s what you need to know about the decision, why it came down to Mizelle, and its potential impact on your upcoming plane travel.

In short, the Biden Administration commented on April 18th that TSA will not be enforcing mask mandates for now. This change could be temporary, however, as will be explained in this article.

The first thing to understand about this case and its decision is who the plaintiffs are and why they filed the case in the first place. The main actor among the plaintiffs is the Health Freedom Defense Fund, a political organization that advocates for freedom of choice regarding medical practices in the US. The organization was founded in Wyoming, but has become a nationwide force.

Together with two Florida citizens as other plaintiffs in the case, the Health Freedom Defense Fund (HFDF) sued President Biden’s administration, but more specifically the CDC itself, making them the primary “defendants”. The complaints in the suit were about the CDC’s extension of the federal mask mandate for airline travel from April 18th to May 3rd. This extension specifically was most likely a new legal target for advocates because previous suits against mask mandates on planes failed.

In short, the HFDF along with the other two plaintiffs are arguing that the CDC exceeded its authority and violated administrative law.

You also may be wondering why Judge Mizelle, an otherwise somewhat obscure federal judge in Florida, has so much power over federal administrative policy.

Any time an element of the federal government is directly sued, plaintiffs have to abide by certain statutes that regulate what cases against the federal government can even be made, which then if approved create “an avenue” for the case to go to a federal court such as Judge Mizelle’s. This is especially true when the case involves constitutional issues such as those pertaining to the regulation of interstate commerce and the separation of federal and state powers as in this case.

Which federal court a case goes to depends on a variety of factors, including the location of the subject of the suit. In this case, the plaintiffs were hoping to travel to and from Florida. This also means that filing the suit in Judge Mizelle’s jurisdiction could have been a strategic choice by HFDF and other connected advocates.

Interestingly, after her appointment by former President Donald Trump, the American Bar Association rated Judge Mizelle as unfit for the position because of her lack of experience. The appointment went through the requisite processes despite the ABA’s rating.

Federal judges’ decisions regarding administrative policy usually only have immediate effects on their jurisdiction, meaning the jurisdiction of the District Court in Tampa. In this case, because the CDC as a whole is party to the decision, Judge Mizelle’s decision has a nationwide impact.

To keep lower federal judges’ power in check, each decision they make is subject to appeals to the U.S. Courts of Appeal, which can then choose to hear it and maybe make a new ruling on the case. If the case is appealed again, it would go before the U.S. Supreme Court for a similar, but final ruling if selected as worth their time. The SCOTUS ruling in favor of Judge Mizelle’s decision would be another avenue for her decision to have permanent national consequence.

The DOJ, which is responsible for defending federal administrative institutions in cases like these, is extremely likely to appeal the case and ask for an temporary suspension of Judge Mizelle’s decision almost immediately; they probably already have it drafted and ready to go. The appeal and suspension’s validity will be determined in a preliminary hearing before the entire case is ruled on, with both decisions being made by the U.S Court of Appeals relevant to the case.

The appeal process could essentially result in a temporary pause on any change in administrative policy and law until the U.S Court of Appeal makes a decision. This process could take a long time, and perhaps result in a suspension that lasts until the proposed original May 3rd deadline anyway.

In summary, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may be temporarily rejoicing about Judge Mizelle’s decision, the legal road to a permanent ban on CDC mask requirements on planes has a long way to go.