Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed Challenging Governor Cuomo’s Restriction on Travel to New York

(Albany, New York – July 1, 2020) – Today, the American Freedom Law Center filed a civil rights lawsuit against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Commissioner of the New York Department of Health, challenging the Governor’s recent order, Executive Order 205, which requires all persons who travel to New York from certain “restricted” States to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.  A violation of the order could result in criminal and civil penalties, including a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York on behalf of Cynthia Page, a resident of Arizona who had to cancel her travel plans to New York due to the Governor’s order.

AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi commented:

“Throughout this current pandemic, Governor Cuomo has shamefully politicized this public health crisis.  His restriction on out-of-state travelers is the most recent example.  Indeed, the Department of Health’s guidance implementing Cuomo’s travel restriction reads like a political press release praising the Governor.  Yet, under Cuomo’s ‘leadership,’ New York has by far the most virus infections and deaths.  And many of the deaths, especially of the elderly in nursing homes, are a direct result of policies implemented by the Governor.”

AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert Muise added:

“Indeed, Cuomo’s hypocrisy was on full display this past March when Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo had police officers stop vehicles with New York license plates.  At that time, Cuomo threatened to sue and tweeted, ‘We will not let New Yorkers be discriminated against.’  Now, through the travel restriction challenged in our lawsuit, Cuomo, a Democrat governor of a Blue State, is discriminating against other States, the vast majority of which are Red States.  Unbelievable.”

As set forth in the Complaint, “The right to travel is a virtually unconditional personal right, guaranteed by the Constitution to us all.”  This fundamental right is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and by the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The Complaint alleges, in relevant part, the following:

“A regulation that has the effect of imposing a penalty on the exercise of the right to travel violates the Equal Protection Clause unless shown to be necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest.  Executive Order 205 and its implementing guidance and regulations impose a penalty on the right to travel and thus violate the Equal Protection Clause because they are not necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest.”

“Executive Order 205 and its implementing guidance and regulations discriminate against individuals because they reside in or travel from certain ‘restricted’ States.  This disparate treatment is arbitrary and capricious, and it has no rational basis, particularly since a perfectly healthy person from one of the ‘restricted’ States is prohibited from traveling to New York but a person with COVID-19 from a State that is not ‘restricted’ can travel to and throughout New York with impunity.  This disparate treatment violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the travel restriction is unconstitutional and an order enjoining its enforcement.