Federal Judge Rules Mask Mandate Exceeds CDC’s Public Health Authority – Biden Administration to Appeal

U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Mizelle this week ruled that the CDC does not have the authority to issue mask mandates on public transportation. The law in question in this case is the Public Health Service Act, enacted in 1944. The law gave the U.S. Surgeon General broad powers “to make and enforce such regulations as in his judge are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission or spread of communicable diseases.” The text of the act goes on to further enumerate some of the actions permissible to that end including, “inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, destruction of animals or articles found to be infected…and any other measure, as in his judgement may be necessary.”


Judge Mizelle ruled that masks do not “sanitize” or meet any of the other listed interventions in the text of the law and therefore CDC overstepped its legal authority in issuing a mask requirement on public transportation.


Many public health advocates have noted that the mask requirements clearly fall into the “any other measure, as in his judgement may be necessary,” that is explicitly laid out in the text of the Public Health Service Act.


The Biden Administration has announced that it will appeal Judge Mizelle’s decision.

Last Reviewed: June 2022