HARTFORD, CT—Lawyers challenging a mask requirement for Connecticut students will not be permitted to bring in testimony from two out-of-state doctors after a Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday they were unqualified to serve as expert witnesses.
The plaintiffs are trying to get an emergency injunction that would put the state’s mask mandate for school children to slow the spread of the coronavirus on hold. On Monday, the plaintiffs’ witnesses provided testimony before Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher so he could determine whether they would be allowed to testify in the hearing for their injunction.
The families had hoped to admit testimony from two doctors prepared to say masks were damaging to children both psychologically and physically. A lawyer for the state objected to both doctors, highlighting past statements from the two men to argue that they were both ideologically too radical to serve as expert witnesses.
In his Tuesday ruling, Moukawsher sided with the state and deemed both doctors unqualified, though not for the same reasons.
The judge wrote that he had an easy time disqualifying Dr. Andrew Kaufman, a New York psychiatrist the plaintiffs tapped to speak to the psychological impact of masks. On cross- examination Monday, Kaufman said he believed that COVID-19 was a hoax to control the population; vaccines were poison; and suggested that viruses do not exist.
“The court will not accept as an expert advisor to it on a matter of life and death a man who defies science so firmly established as to be beyond rational dispute,” Moukawsher wrote. “The court cannot believe that his irrationality in one area will not overwhelm his reason in another.”
Moukawsher also refused to accept as an expert Dr. James Meehan Jr., an ophthalmologist from Oklahoma. The state had sought to disqualify Meehan in part based on his past statements that mask mandates were “about symbolism, fear, and psychological operations to control the population.” The state also objected to his marketing and profit from vitamin sales as an alternative to face masks.
Moukawsher said it was not Meehan’s beliefs that disqualified him, it was his professional background. The judge said the group could have sought the testimony of any of the 12,000 members of the Infectious Diseases Society of America but instead chose a doctor whose speciality was in eye diseases and vision problems.
“The illusion that most expert testimony comes from dispassionate sages faded from the courthouse a long time ago. The trouble here is not Dr. Meehan’s passion. It is his qualifications,” the judge wrote.
Moukawsher’s ruling also served to narrow the scope of the lawsuit somewhat. The plaintiffs have sought to call individual parents to speak to difficulties their children have had with masks. The judge ruled that the state guidance already provides for individual exemptions and said that problems qualifying for them should be challenged at the local level.
“All this means that the individual parents and children involved in this lawsuit have rights they may enforce. Enforcing them though is not a matter of challenging the Department of Education guidance as a whole. For the families it is a matter of challenging the relevant schools acting under it,” he wrote.
The case is scheduled to continue Monday. In the meantime, lawyers for the plaintiffs said they would likely work to identify more potential expert witnesses.