HONOLULU — A federal judge dismissed a Kaua‘i nonprofit’s constitutional challenge to former Gov. David Ige’s COVID-19 emergency proclamations on Monday.
For Our Rights, an anti-vaccine, anti-mandate group based in Kapa‘a, submitted a legal complaint in December 2021, claiming the proclamations had violated their constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and seeking financial damages. Along with Ige, Kaua‘i Mayor Derek Kawakami was named in the initial complaint.
The group argued the proclamations had been issued without first making individualized health assessments, offering timely notice about the requirement to quarantine and the right to challenge it, and holding hearings.
U.S. District Court Judge Jill A. Otake rejected the arguments and dismissed the case in a motion, holding the Fourteenth Amendment did not require Ige to give individualized notice or hold hearings and that the quarantine requirement did not constitute a “seizure” under the constitution.
“The COVID-19 emergency proclamations were lawful and addressed the unprecedented impact of a global pandemic on our islands,” said Deputy Attorney General Skyler Cruz, who served as lead counsel in the litigation. “We are grateful for the court’s thoughtful and well-reasoned analysis.”
Otake previously described some of the plaintiff’s arguments as a “spaghetti approach,” in which they “heaved the entire contents of a pot against the wall in hopes something would stick.”
Ige issued his first emergency proclamation on March 4, 2020, and the latest expired on March 25, 2022.
Many aspects of the orders were a subject of contention — often more extreme than in other states. Early in the pandemic, for instance, Ige alarmed government transparency advocates by suspending public records and open meeting laws.
His initial proclamation required all incoming travelers to take part in a 14-day quarantine. By early 2022, Hawai‘i was the only state to have an indoor mask mandate still in place.
For Our Rights, which could not be reached for comment on the decision, was formed early in the pandemic, holding frequent events that protested COVID-19 restrictions and mask requirements.
Since then, the group has broadened its scope to advocate for other right-wing issues, pushing election fraud claims and legislation restricting sexual orientation and gender identity education for young kids — similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
In newsletters, the group frequently refers to the COVID-19 pandemic in conspiratorial and apocalyptic terms.
“As time marches on we only get closer to the day of reckoning, and now it seems that day may be even closer than we thought as more shocking evidence emerges that the entire Covid Pandemic was a carefully plotted genocide scheme,” reads one newsletter sent in February.
Another accuses the World Health Organization of attempting to “trap humanity in a global biomedical totalitarian regime.”
The lawsuit, a main priority of the group, appears to have been funded through merchandise sales, exclusive subscriber fees, and tax-deductible donations.
The ProPublica nonprofit explorer tool shows the group took in $104,807 in revenue in 2021.
For Our Rights Co-founder Levanna Lomma faced criminal charges for violating quarantine restrictions when she refused to take a mandatory COVID-19 test while traveling in March 2021.
That case was dismissed late last year.
Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.