Today, dishonest initiative promoter Tim Eyman appeared as a witness in his own defense against the charges brought against him by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who is trying to hold Eyman accountable for repeatedly and blatantly violating our state’s public disclosure laws.
After taking his place in the witness box, Eyman asked Judge James Dixon if he could take his mask off. Eyman, an extremely vocal opponent of mask wearing, claimed that wearing a mask distracts him. Eyman attempted to justify his request by telling the court he has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Judge Dixon initially said yes, contingent upon on Eyman moving his seat back and keeping a sufficient distance from others in the courtroom.
But the state’s legal team objected, noting that there’s a pandemic raging and that masks are one of the few ways people can reduce their risk of contracting or spreading SARS-CoV‑2, the virus that causes COVID-19, while out in public.
Judge Dixon held that the state’s objection was well taken, and directed Eyman to put his mask back on while assuring the failed gubernatorial candidate that the court was willing to allow more frequent breaks in the proceedings.
Public health experts and doctors say there are only a few types of conditions that would warrant exempting someone from mask wearing requirements, like facial deformities that are incompatible with masking.
“Inappropriate medical exemptions may inadvertently hasten viral spread and threaten public health,” explained Dr. Mical Raz, a professor in public policy and health at the University of Rochester, in a July 10th commentary.
Those who are truly unable to wear masks at all for legitimate medical reasons are advised to quarantine at home, doctors say.
“These are the extreme patients where any change in oxygen and carbon dioxide could make a difference,” noted Albert Rizzo, MD, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, in an interview with WebMD. But, he adds: “That’s also the population that shouldn’t be going out in the first place.”
“A medically necessary exemption from masking is considered a disability modification under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA),” Dr. Raz says.
“Individuals with disabilities have clearly defined legal protections under both federal and state law… A reasonable disability modification might be a masking exemption, but this is not the sole remedy. Amid a global pandemic, reasonable accommodations for masking intolerance can and should include avoidance measures, such as curbside services and delivery.”
Tim Eyman may find wearing a mask annoying and irksome. But mask wearing is essential to reducing the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.
Eyman’s unfounded request for an exemption is a reminder of how incredibly selfish he is. He would rather jeopardize the health of people around him than be inconvenienced by a “distracting” face covering. He does have the right to apply for a disability modification under the ADA. But any modification cannot and should not put other people at risk of contracting COVID-19.
We all have to deal with unpleasant situations at one point or another in our lives. For Eyman, this is one of those times, and he has no one to blame but himself, for he is in a mess of his own making. If Eyman hadn’t stonewalled in the extreme going back several years, this trial could have been held years ago, before the pandemic hit, and he would have been able to testify maskless.
Eyman’s trial, incidentally, is a bench trial. That means there is no jury for Eyman to perform for. In this case, Judge Dixon the trier of fact as well as the trier of the law. Eyman is represented by the conservo-libertarian former State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders, who often wrote dissenting opinions arguing that Eyman’s blatantly unconstitutional initiatives were constitutional.
After both sides have finished making their case, Dixon will hear closing arguments. Those could be presented either later week or after the Christmas holiday. Dixon has already ruled against Eyman at several key junctures during the case, though he has not yet granted the key relief that Ferguson is seeking: a multimillion dollar financial penalty and a order barring Eyman from engaging in future money machinations without the approval of another individual.