State Seeks To Shield Surgeon General Scott Rivkees From Deposition In Mask Fight

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Attorneys for the Florida Department of Health, schoolhouse boards, and parties specified arsenic the NAACP battled Thursday astir whether Surgeon General Scott Rivkees should springiness a deposition successful a ineligible combat implicit the state’s efforts to forestall schoolhouse disguise mandates.

Administrative Law Judge Brian Newman held a astir hour-long proceeding arsenic the section seeks a protective bid to artifact Rivkees from having to attest successful challenges to an Aug. 6 regularisation issued by the wellness agency. The regularisation required that parents beryllium capable to “opt out” their children from immoderate schoolhouse disguise mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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School boards successful Broward, Alachua, Orange, Miami-Dade, and Leon counties and different parties, including the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, person challenged the rule. Their attorneys privation to question Rivkees, who, arsenic surgeon general, heads the Department of Health and signed the rule.

At slightest successful part, they contend that the effort to forestall disguise requirements successful schools conflicts with past statements by Rivkees astir masks helping curb the dispersed of COVID-19.

“It matters what the surgeon wide was reasoning successful this case,” David Ashburn, an lawyer for the schoolhouse boards successful Broward, Alachua, and Orange counties.

But Ed Lombard, an lawyer for the Department of Health, focused connected a extortion — known successful the ineligible satellite arsenic the “apex doctrine” — that mostly shields high-ranking authorities officials from having to springiness depositions if accusation tin beryllium obtained from different sources.

“They (attorneys for the challengers) person means to ascertain the accusation they want,” Lombard said. “It’s not the surgeon wide they request to commencement with.”

Newman did not instantly regularisation connected the deposition issue, but the challenges, which person been consolidated, are moving quickly. The justice has scheduled a proceeding Monday connected motions by the Department of Health to disregard the challenges. If the challenges determination forward, helium has scheduled a afloat proceeding to statesman Sept. 24.

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In part, the challenges contend the Department of Health overstepped its ineligible authorization successful issuing the exigency rule, which was an outgrowth of a July 30 enforcement bid by Gov. Ron DeSantis to forestall schools from requiring students to deterioration masks during the pandemic. The challenges besides reason that the regularisation is “arbitrary and capricious” and goes against the department’s relation successful preventing the dispersed of diseases.

“Rather, the exigency regularisation is facilitating the dispersed of COVID-19 by banning masks successful nationalist schools,” said 1 of the challenges, filed by the NAACP, the Florida Student Power Network and respective families.

But successful the motions to disregard the challenges, the Department of Health contended that the schoolhouse boards and different parties bash not person ineligible lasting to combat the rule. In a question filed Tuesday, section attorneys said schoolhouse boards person an work to travel authorities laws and the rule.

“At bottom, the schoolhouse boards disagree with the substance of the department’s exigency rule,” the question said. “However, arsenic the nationalist officials charged with operating successful accordance with authorities law, the schoolhouse boards indispensable presume that authorities laws applicable to their duties are valid. As such, the schoolhouse boards deficiency lasting to initiate litigation for the intent of invalidating the precise laws they are work bound to follow. Put simply, the schoolhouse boards bash not get to prime and take which authorities laws they privation to follow.”

Rivkees, who antecedently served arsenic president of the University of Florida College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, is scheduled to measurement down arsenic surgeon wide connected Monday. In arguing that helium should beryllium deposed successful the case, attorneys for the challengers pointed to his inheritance successful pediatrics and his past actions supporting the usage of masks during the pandemic.

“Dr. Rivkees’ idiosyncratic cognition and unsocial nonrecreational experience, including being a renowned pediatrician, marque him singly capable to reply the questions related to his statements connected masks and the efficacy for, and effects on, children,” attorneys for the challengers wrote successful a papers filed Wednesday. “Given his role, and his past of nationalist wellness advisories admonishing the nationalist to deterioration masks, lone to reverse them pursuing the absorption successful Executive Order 21-175 from the politician (at whose pleasance helium serves), Dr. Rivkees is successful a unsocial presumption to explicate the actions of the DOH and whether, successful fact, the DOH rule’s parental opt-out provisions power (as opposed to increase) the dispersed of communicable disease.”

But successful the petition for a protective order, the department’s attorneys wrote that Rivkees does not “possess … unique, idiosyncratic cognition astir the disputed issues successful this proceeding that his unit does not different possess. In his presumption arsenic Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Rivkees is liable for overseeing the operations of the authorities wellness office, region wellness departments, and definite country and determination offices passim the state. He is not, however, progressive connected a granular level with the enactment of each section rule.”

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(©2021 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This worldly whitethorn not beryllium published, broadcast, rewritten, oregon redistributed. The News Service of Florida’s Jim Saunders contributed to this report.)

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