Brooklyn Judge Tosses Anti-Vaxxer Parents' Lawsuit Against NYC's Health Department

A sign warns people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg on April 19, 2019 in New York City.
Image: via Getty

A Brooklyn judge has tossed a lawsuit alleging New York City’s health department violated anti-vaxxer parents’ civil rights by mandating vaccinations in the wake of a massive measles outbreak. The suit was filed on Monday, and was dimissed by Thursday.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports that Kings County Supreme Court judge Lawrence Knipel ruled the suit—which cited debunked claims about the dangers of the MMR vaccine in order to get the city’s emergency order lifted, and argued that the current 359-person outbreak does not pose “a clear and present danger” to city residents—offered an “unsupported, bald faced opinion” and would not “be credited by this court.”


The outbreak, which is predominantly centered within the ultra-Orthodox community in Williamsburg, has been ongoing since October. It has resulted in the hospitalization of at least 25 people, six of whom were admitted to ICUs, according to Gothamist. Since the mandatory vaccination order—which required parents in defiance to pay up to a $1000 fine—was issued on April 9, an estimated 500 previously unvaccinated children between the ages of one and 5 received the MMR vaccine.

The parents who filed the suit argued the order was “arbitrary, capricious, contrary to law,” a sentiment with which Judge Knipel vehemently disagreed. Per Thursday’s ruling (emphasis mine):

The pivotal question posed for this court’s determination is whether Respondent Commissioner has a rational, non-pretextual basis for declaring a public health emergency and issuing the attendant orders challenged herein. The evidence in this regard is largely uncontroverted. The unvarnished truth is that these diagnoses represent the most significant spike in incidences of measles in the United States in many years and that the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is at its epicenter. It has already begun to spread to remote locations.

Robert Krakow, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff parents (infamous anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is another such attorney) told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in a statement that parents were “disappointed” with the ruling, but will “ continue our efforts to challenge unreasonable measures and make certain that public health authorities choose methods that are appropriate to the circumstances.”

“We are pleased that the court recognized that the city’s emergency order is an appropriate response to the very real public health threat that this measles outbreak presents,” Nick Paolucci, spokesman for NYC’s Law Department, told Jezebel in a statement. He also provided us with the following statement from Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Herminia Palacio:

I am pleased the Court ruled to uphold the City’s public health Emergency Order to mandate vaccines. We were confident this order was based on solid public health and legal grounds, and are glad the courts agreed. These tools were deployed in an appropriate and necessary manner in order to meet the significant public health risk posed by this ongoing measles outbreak.


The mandatory vaccination order is ongoing.

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