On January 1, the Golden State repealed a law preventing doctors from spreading "misinformation" about COVID-19.
The repeal was scheduled in 2023 after Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of two California doctors who wanted to be free to tell their patients what they really think about the virus and related issues.
The legislation was signed into law in September 2022 and took effect in January 2023. It tried to define COVID disinformation as "unprofessional conduct" and empower the Medical Board of California to revoke the licenses of physicians who diverged from "contemporary scientific consensus."
A federal judge halted the law in January pending court challenges, and it is unclear whether officials ever enforced it.
"We had an argument at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last summer that went very well for us," says Jacob Huebert, president of Liberty Justice Center. "The judges didn't ask me any questions, and then they were highly skeptical of the government's lawyers. So, it looked like we were going to win in our First Amendment lawsuit there. But then, the governor just repealed the law before we could get a decision."
He expects the government will now ask the court to dismiss the case as moot because the law is no longer on the books, but he would still like to see the court tell Governor Gavin Newsom (D) that "what he did was unconstitutional."
"I would hope that California's experience would discourage legislators in all the other states from doing this, because if they do, they will get sued," Huebert adds.
He says the First Amendment remains on the side of people who want to speak freely, and courts should strike down any law against that.