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Fact Finders: Examining the power of a federal judge

A federal district court judge is a powerful person, given power under the constitution.
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 9:54 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - One federal judge in Florida recently issued a ruling on mask-wearing on public transit. She voided the federal mask mandate on planes, trains, and travel hubs. So, one of our viewers wants to know, can another federal judge in a different area make an opposite ruling?

A federal district court judge is a powerful person, given power under the constitution. So, they can make a ruling on a case before them, and it can become binding throughout the country. It will be the rule of the land unless it’s reviewed on appeal. In the travel mask mandate case, The Justice Department filed an appeal of that judge’s order. That case is now at the U.S. Court of Appeals Eleventh Circuit. The case could eventually go before the Supreme Court. So, there’s a process.

Could another federal judge step in the middle of all this?

“Judges aren’t allowed to pick their own cases, except for the United States Supreme Court, which has some control over which cases it hears. But district judges, federal trial judges, they take the cases that are filed before them, and they decide the cases that they’re presented with, explained University of Missouri Law School Professor Thomas Bennett.

“When the government loses, the proper course of action is to appeal to the next higher level, not start over in a district court somewhere,” added Missouri State University Constitutional Law Professor Dr. Kevin Pybas.

Legal analysts don’t think the Centers for Disease Control wants to bring the mask requirement back. They believe the appeal may be an effort to preserve the CDC’s ability to issue future mandates if the need arises.

As for the viewer’s question, can another federal judge in a different area make an opposite ruling? It’s complicated. But generally, the judge needs to have a case before issuing a ruling. And the federal government can’t go shopping for a new judge in this mask case. So, the answer is NO on this one.

If you have something you want us to investigate, email us at factfinders@ky3.com.

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