Trial that compares mask warrant to rejected Japanese internment

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UPDATE, October 25, 10:55 a.m .: York County Common Pleas Judge Gregory Snyder has dismissed a petition opposing the North York County School District mask warrant.

The petition compared the mask’s warrant to the internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II.

In his decision, Snyder ruled that the parents, Melissa and Samuel Connahey, were not entitled to remedy in the form of a writ of habeas corpus because their case was not a criminal one. By law, the judge wrote, habeas corpus writs are only relevant in criminal cases in which defendants challenge unlawful detention.

The district’s mask policy, he wrote, “is clearly not criminal in nature.”

Snyder rendered his decision without prejudice, meaning parents can “re-file the appropriate motion in the appropriate forum.”

Previously: Parents of students in the North York County School District have filed a petition in court to oppose the district’s mask mandate by comparing, in part, the warrant to the internment of people from Japanese ancestry during WWII.

The petition – filed as a habeas corpus order, which is more often used by those who have been illegally imprisoned – argues that the mask warrant adopted by the school district “constitutes an infringement of liberty and the applicants’ freedom and amounts to an extrajudicial limitation. fundamental rights without due process.

The petitioners, Melissa and Samuel Connahey, who have two children currently enrolled in northern schools, are not asking the York County Common Plea Court to quash the mask’s warrant. Rather, according to the petition, they are asking the court to issue an injunction prohibiting the school district from enforcing the mask warrant only for their children.

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This is an unusual case, said parents’ attorney Paul Siegrist.

Usually, he said, habeas corpus writs are reserved for felony defendants who believe they are being held illegally in prison or for parolees who believe their parole is illegally restrictive.

“However,” Siegrist said, “it’s not specifically reserved for criminal matters.”

Other lawsuits filed to oppose the mask warrants are civil complaints that have asked the state’s Commonwealth Court to overturn the Pennsylvania Department of Health order requiring schools to require masks in schools. This petition is different because, said Siegrist, it argues the county court has jurisdiction and is simply asking to exempt Connahey’s children from the warrant. He’s not looking to overturn the mask’s mandate, he said.

In 1942, Americans of Japanese descent were held in internment camps on the West Coast.  An attorney argues on behalf of parents in the North York County School District that Pennsylvania's mask mandate for public school students is akin to the internment of Japanese Americans.

Part of the argument refers to the internment of Japanese on the West Coast during WWII. Long considered a dark spot in the nation’s history, an estimated 120,000 people of Japanese descent – two-thirds of whom were US citizens – have been held in internment camps in the west. In 1988, then President Ronald Reagan signed a law formally apologizing for internment and authorizing reparations of $ 20,000 each to surviving inmates. In 1992, more than 82,000 Americans of Japanese descent received repairs totaling more than $ 1.6 billion.

“Fortunately,” says the petition, “this case does not concern the internment of a group of people by the army. This is, however, another case of a different government entity restricting the liberty of an individual under the authority of an executive order.

The lawsuit cites the case brought by a Japanese American by the name of Fred Korematsu in 1942 who “refused to obey the decree that required him to leave an exclusion zone and report to a resettlement center. ”, Which led to his arrest and conviction. Korematsu, the petition says, “did not challenge the validity of the entire executive decree,” arguing instead that his arrest and conviction violated his constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment.

The United States Supreme Court begged to defer, ruling that his conviction was constitutional, a decision which Siegrist said “has remained a stain on US jurisprudence for years.”

Siegrist argues in the brief that in 2018 John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, repudiated the Korematsu ruling in a case that led then-President Donald Trump to ban travel from some predominantly Muslim countries to the United States. Notwithstanding Roberts’ objection, the Supreme Court upheld the president’s constitutional authority to make such an order.

Siegrist argued that the executive order regarding the internment of Japanese Americans was simply an order that prohibited them from living in certain areas of the country and that their constitutional rights were violated by being displaced against their will.

“It’s not like they’ve been thrown in jail or that their free speech rights have been violated,” he said.

The petition contends that the Connahey’s petition restricts their freedom because wearing a mask “restricts the flow of air to the petitioners’ lungs and causes discomfort.”

“If (a) a parolee were to wear an ankle bracelet,” Siegrist wrote in the petition, “that would be enough to give him (the right to take the case to court). Here the petitioner is obliged to wear a mask. ”

He also argues that wearing a mask violates the First Amendment rights of children.

“It should be an undisputed fact that human beings communicate with each other using facial expressions such as smiling,” he wrote. “A face mask limits the ability to communicate non-verbally. ”

He wrote: “Therefore, without any due process, and while the applicant is in the custody of the school district, the school district causes physical discomfort to the applicant and limits his right to speak.”

The Northern York County School District did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the petition.

Columnist / reporter Mike Argento has been on the staff of Daily Record since 1982. Contact him at 717-771-2046 or [email protected]


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