Famous Doctor Challenges Texas Gov Over Contract Tracing’s Constitutionality

Written by Wes Walker on June 17, 2020

From the very beginning, Dr. Steve Hotze has been pushing back against the fear-mongering surrounding the Chinese Wuhan Coronavirus.

When the state government issued heavy-handed restrictions on the citizens, he led the charge in challenging them.

When their legislative powers stepped over the line of citizen freedoms, he challenged those powers, too.

His lawsuit targets the Constitutionality of Executive Powers being used against the citizens of Texas in the name of fighting WuFlu. Several hundred business owners, and some lawmakers past and present, have joined him in this lawsuit.

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The civil action filed Monday in federal court takes on the disparate operating capacities the governor mandated in his “COVID-19 lottery,” claiming Abbott’s actions have limited restaurants and bars with 25 or 50 percent limits, while bicycle shops, liquor stores, pool cleaners and supermarkets are running at full tilt.

Attorney Jared Woodfill filed the federal suit and multiple state court challenges on behalf of Hotze, a Houston physician and Republican activist, targeting a fellow Republican for statewide orders the suit says unfairly determined the fate of businesses during a public health crisis.

“He chooses the winners and losers,” Woodfill said. “It’s unconstitutional what he’s doing. We think the Texas Disaster Act is unconstitutional, all the executive orders … that suspend laws are unconstitutional. Only the legislature can do that.”

…he lawsuit by Hotze includes nearly 1,500 names. Most are small business owners, but topping the list are state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, former Republican state representatives Gary Elkins, of Houston, Molly White, of Bell County, Rick Green, of Hays County, and former party chair Cathie Adams, of Collin County.

The suit argues that Texas’ $295 million contract tracing program — aimed at tracking down all people exposed to an infected person — violates the first amendment, privacy, due process and equal protection provisions. Such tracking amounts to an illegal, warrantless search, the suit says. While tracing back contacts is supposed to be voluntary, it is enforced through local health departments based on a presumption of guilt for all people in proximity to a sick person, according to the lawsuit. It requires people to turn over names, call in with their temperature readings and assumes a person has COVID-19 unless they can prove otherwise, Woodfill said.

Woodfill said he believes this is the first federal challenge to contact tracing. He hopes it will set the tone for “how we as a government and as a people will deal with diseases that we don’t have a vaccine for yet.” —Houston Chronicle