Appeal Briefing Complete In My Lawsuit Challenging NY’s Racially Discriminatory Covid Therapeutic Guidelines
“[T]he Court should instruct the district court to enter a preliminary injunction enjoining the Department from enforcing the Policy. New York, like all other states, should allocate live-saving treatments to all its residents based on neutral, objective criteria regardless of their race or ethnicity.”
On May 18, I noted that My Appeal Filed Challenging New York’s Racially Discriminatory Covid Therapeutic Guidelines. That post has links to all the pleadings and briefs in the District Court, and a summary of the case from our Brief in the Second Circuit:
As posted earlier, in January, 2022, I filed a lawsuit challenging the New York State Department of Health’s racially discriminatory Covid-therapeutic guidelines, which provided automatic eligibility for non-whites and Hispanics, while requiring white, non-Hispanics to demonstrate a personal medical risk factor….
The state asserted several defenses, including that I lacked “standing” (because I had not contracted Covid or been denied access), and mootness (because the state was not enforcing the guidelines and had removed them from the DOH website, though the guidelines were not withdrawn). The American Medical Association as part of a coalition filed an Amicus brief supporting the use of race in health care services….
The [District] Court dismissed the Complaint, finding I don’t have standing to sue….
We believe the district court was wrong as a matter of law, and have appealed, filing our Opening Brief.…
From the Summary of Argument:
SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT
Plaintiff has standing to challenge the Policy because the Department has “erect[ed] a barrier that makes it more difficult for [him] to obtain a benefit than it is for members of [other racial] group[s].” City of Jacksonville, 508 U.S. at 666. Under the Department’s policy, non-whites and Hispanics/Latinos who test positive for COVID-19 automatically qualify for oral antiviral treatments, while identically situated non-Hispanic whites are ineligible unless they demonstrate a “medical condition” or “risk factor” that increases their risk for severe illness.
That is a quintessential Article III injury. The fact that Plaintiff had not yet contracted COVID-19 at the time he filed this suit is of no moment. If the district court were correct that individuals cannot challenge the Policy until they contract COVID-19—triggering a five-day window to obtain relief before oral antiviral treatments become ineffective—then the Department would have free rein to enact racially discriminatory and unconstitutional rules without fear of judicial intervention. That is not the law, and the district court’s holding to the contrary flouts a long line of precedent from this Court and the Supreme Court finding standing in similar circumstances. To establish Article III injury, Plaintiff need only show that the challenged classification puts him at increased risk of future injury—a test readily satisfied here given the undisputed prevalence of COVID-19 throughout New York and the United States.
On June 23, 2022, the State filed its opposing Brief,: which provided in part:
Plaintiff fails to satisfy any of the requirements for Article III standing. Plaintiff cannot allege an injury-in-fact because any equal protection injury he might suffer is purely speculative, and because the challenged guidance has never served as a barrier to COVID-19 treatment for white and non-Hispanic persons. Plaintiff also cannot show traceability or redressability both because the challenged guidance is not binding on health care professionals and because it largely tracks federal standards that would remain in place even if plaintiff were to prevail in this suit. In addition, plaintiff’s challenge is moot because the challenged guidance applied only during an initial period of supply scarcity. A decision in the State’s favor on any one of these grounds warrants affirmance or dismissal of the appeal as moot.
Even if plaintiff were somehow able to surmount all of the threshold obstacles discussed above, the proper remedy would be for this Court to remand the case to the district court for further proceedings, including resolution of plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction in the first instance. There is no reason for this Court to decide the motion for the first time on appeal, and the record before the Court provides no basis for granting preliminary relief, as plaintiff has failed to establish irreparable harm, a likelihood of success on the merits of his equal protection challenge, or that an injunction would be in the public interest.
Today we filed our Reply Brief:
INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY OF ARGUMENT
The Department’s arguments depend almost entirely on this Court concluding that the Policy is “voluntary” and simply a “suggestion” that providers consider race when deciding who should receive oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19. But this is a nonstarter. The Department entirely ignores both the text of the Policy—which orders providers to “adhere” to its racial prioritization instructions—and New York law, which punishes providers who refuse to comply with the Department’s orders. Indeed, there is not a single sentence in the Policy that informs providers that its prioritization criteria are voluntary. The Department cannot retroactively change the Policy through a declaration from a Department employee.
Stripped of this pretense, the Department’s remaining arguments plainly fail. Plaintiff has demonstrated an Equal Protection injury because the Policy erects a barrier that makes it more difficult for him to obtain oral antiviral treatments because of his race and ethnicity. And the injury caused by the Policy is redressable by the relief Plaintiff seeks. Nor are Plaintiff’s claims moot. The Policy is still in effect, COVID-19 rates have once again increased sharply, and the Department concedes that a new shortage can happen “at any time.”
The Department’s primary defense on the merits is, again, that the Policy is not mandatory but only a “suggestion” to providers. But the Policy imposes burdens and benefits on the basis of race and thus is subject to strict scrutiny. The Department hasn’t come close to satisfying its heavy burden under strict scrutiny, and the remaining factors weigh in Plaintiff’s favor. Rather than remand for further proceedings, the Court should instruct the district court to enter a preliminary injunction enjoining the Department from enforcing the Policy. New York, like all other states, should allocate live-saving treatments to all its residents based on neutral, objective criteria regardless of their race or ethnicity.
As it did in the District Court, the American Medical Association and a coalition of other groups filed an Amicus Brief supporting the State’s use of race in allocating medical care.
The case is on the Second Circuit’s Expedited Calendar, but as of this writing the court electronic docket does not reflect an oral argument date.DONATE
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