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Case Name Machovec v. Palm Beach County PR-FL-0003
Docket / Court 502020CV006920XXXXMB ( State Court )
State/Territory Florida
Case Type(s) Presidential/Gubernatorial Authority
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This is a case where citizens sued the county for imposing a mask mandate, arguing that it was an infringement of their right to privacy in making medical decisions. The plaintiffs requested a temporary restraining order, which was denied by the district court on July 27, 2020 ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is a case where citizens sued the county for imposing a mask mandate, arguing that it was an infringement of their right to privacy in making medical decisions. The plaintiffs requested a temporary restraining order, which was denied by the district court on July 27, 2020. The plaintiffs appealed to the Florida District Court of Appeal on August 10, but the court affirmed the lower court's decision on January 27, 2021. The plaintiffs then appealed to the Supreme Court, asking for an exercise of discretionary jurisdiction, which it declined on July 2, 2021. Back in the district court, proceedings remain ongoing.

On June 24, 2020, in Florida, the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners voted to enact Emergency Order No. 2020-12 ("EO-12") which required citizens to wear face coverings (masks or plastic face shields) while in designated public places; the order gave exceptions only for children under two years of age, for persons actively engaged in social distant exercises, persons with medical conditions that made mask wearing unsafe, and persons who objected based on religious beliefs. EO-12 also allowed for temporary removal of the covering to consume food or beverages and to assist hearing impaired persons with lip reading.

The plaintiffs, several private citizens residing in the county, filed this lawsuit on June 30, 2020, in the Palm Beach County Circuit Court. They sued Palm Beach County, arguing that EO-12 had infringed on their constitutionally protected rights, under the Florida Constitution, to: Equal Protection under Article I, § 9, Freedom of Speech under Article I, § 4; Due Process under Article I, § 9; and Privacy and Bodily Autonomy under Article I, § 23. Furthermore, they argued that Palm Beach County had no authority under the Florida Statutes and State Emergency Orders to force medical treatment or to create a mandate for citizens to wear facial coverings. The plaintiffs argued that an injunction was necessary because no other remedy at law was adequate to remedy a violation of privacy rights and that they would suffer irreparable harm due to the loss of fundamental freedoms. The case was assigned to Judge John S. Kastrenakes.

The same day, the plaintiffs also filed an emergency motion for temporary injunction, arguing that the court should apply strict scrutiny while determining the likelihood of their success on the merits.

The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on July 12, 2020.

Palm Beach County responded on July 13, arguing that no right to privacy was infringed upon by EO-12's mask ordinance, due to the fact that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding one's physical appearance in public places, that there was no reasonable expectation of privacy in the decision to unwittingly subject others to illness and death, and that requiring mask wearing did not constitute medical treatment or otherwise intrude upon an individual's right to make private medical decisions. They also argued that no due process right was infringed because the mask ordinance was not vague. In light of this, they stated the order should be reviewed under rational basis, but that even when applying strict scrutiny, EO-12 would pass muster because the government's interest in preventing widespread death and injury from COVID-19 was compelling and narrowly tailored based on the exceptions. The plaintiffs filed a reply on July 17.

After a hearing, the district court denied the plaintiff's motion for an emergency temporary injunction on July 27, 2020. The court found that public health emergencies created situations where the private rights of individuals must give way to the government's police power to protect its citizens and found that the plaintiffs had not established that their constitutional right had been violated or that the government lacked a rational basis for its action.

Temporary Restraining Order Appeal
The plaintiffs appealed the decision on August 10, 2020, to the Fourth District Court of Appeal of Florida. The plaintiffs filed their initial brief on September 24, which was amended to comply with court rules on September 30. They argued that the application of a face covering constituted a medical treatment, and thus was covered in the constitutional right to refuse medical treatment. Additionally, they argued that the lower court had erred in using rational basis review rather than strict scrutiny to the issues in the case.

Palm Beach County replied on October 29, 2020, stating that the plaintiffs had failed to show that the public interest would be served through an injunction of EO-12 and because a face covering is not a type of medical device or medical treatment; specifically, they argued that if a face covering was defined as a medical treatment, this would lead to an absurd conclusion that a wide variety of practices (like avoiding crowds, coughing into ones sleeve, washing hands) were also medical treatments.

Alachua County filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Palm Beach County on November 19, stating that the plaintiffs' argument would require strict scrutiny be applied far too broadly in questions related to the freedom to decline invasive medical treatment. For example, they reasoned that while compression socks could be prescribed as a medical treatment, that does not mean that all socks would be considered medical devices and therefore beholden to a heightened standard.

On November 30, the plaintiffs filed a reply brief, reiterating their argument that being forced to wear a mask infringed on the right to privacy, including the right to refuse medical treatment, and that the trial court had erred in not applying strict scrutiny.

On December 18, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a motion to disqualify Judge Kastrenakes, stating they did not feel they would receive a fair trial or hearing, but their motion was denied for legal insufficiency on January 4, 2021.

The Fourth Circuit, affirming the lower court on January 27, 2021, held that the mask mandate did not implicate the constitutional right to refuse medical treatment and that the county had a rational basis for enacting the mask mandate. 310 So.3d 941. The court found that a person's right to privacy was an important right, though not an absolute one—such a right could be infringed in circumstances when there is a public emergency and it becomes necessary to prevent the spread of disease.

The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Florida Supreme Court on February 17, 2021, requesting the court exercise its jurisdiction for discretionary review of the appellate court's decision. In their brief on March 1, 2021, the plaintiffs argued that the court had such discretionary jurisdiction because the lower court had expressly construed the scope and meaning of the Florida constitution and because the mask mandate was subject to strict scrutiny on the theory of an individual's right to privacy.

Palm Beach County responded on April 7, arguing that the Supreme Court should decline to exercise jurisdiction because the Fourth Circuit's decision was based upon an issue that the plaintiffs had waived below and because the opinion did not expressly construe a provision of the Florida or Federal constitution.

Back in the district court, the Palm Beach County filed a motion to dismiss on June 8, 2021, which the plaintiffs opposed on June 22. On July 2, 2021, the Supreme Court of Florida issued a short opinion declining to accept jurisdiction over the case and denying the petition for review. Following this, the district court set a hearing for November 15, 2021, and the case remains ongoing.

Caitlin Kierum - 10/29/2021

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Palm Beach County
Plaintiff Description Citizens living in Palm Beach County
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 06/30/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
State Trial Court
Verified Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Emergency Injunctive Relief [ECF# 109613355]
PR-FL-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: State Court Website
State Trial Court
Order Denying Plaintiff's Verified Emergency Motion for Temporary Injunction [ECF# 110806335]
PR-FL-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: State Court Website
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Judges Kastrenakes, John S Court not on record show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Leo, Louis IV (Florida) show/hide docs
Martz, Melissa (Florida) show/hide docs
Medgebow, Melissa Martz (Florida) show/hide docs
Strolla, Cory C. (Florida) show/hide docs

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