ACLU-NJ and NYC firms file response to NJ’s motion to dismiss nurse Kaci Hickox’s lawsuit
The ACLU of New Jersey and two New York law firms – Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans and McLaughlin & Stern – filed a brief (PDF) today on behalf of Kaci Hickox, the nurse held against her will in a makeshift tent in Newark in 2014 after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. The brief opposes the motion Governor Christie and his co-defendants filed in January to dismiss Hickox’s lawsuit against them challenging her detention under New Jersey’s severe quarantine policies.
“Kaci Hickox’s confinement against her will was unconstitutional, illegal and unjustified,” said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Edward Barocas, who represents Hickox. “Kaci Hickox deserves the right to proceed with her case and, ultimately, to have her day in court to challenge a detention that was based on fear rather than science.”
The brief filed today explains that when Governor Chris Christie, then-Commissioner of Health Mary O’Dowd and other health department officials quarantined Hickox despite showing no valid symptoms of Ebola, they violated Hickox’s “clearly established” constitutional rights to have freedom from unlawful seizure, freedom from unnecessary restraints and due process of law.
“When Governor Christie and other New Jersey officials held me in the tent a year and a half ago, those officials downplayed my valid objections and ignored my rights,” said Kaci Hickox. “I have a right to challenge that injustice in federal court, and that is exactly what I am attempting to do.”
On January 15, the defendants filed a motion to have the case dismissed. They argued that Hickox’s right to be free from quarantine was not “clearly established,” and that government officials are entitled to immunity from monetary damage claims that do not involved “clearly established” rights.
“The officials who quarantined Kaci Hickox did so unconstitutionally and without sound medical reasons, in violation of her basic constitutional right to liberty,” said civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, of Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans, one of Hickox's attorneys. “New Jersey's quarantine policy violates basic constitutional principles, and Kaci Hickox has a right to challenge it in court.”
Christie and O'Dowd continued to hold Hickox even after two negative blood tests and afforded her no right of appeal except to the very person who ordered her quarantine in the first place, Commissioner O’Dowd.