The judge in a federal appeals court hearing to decide whether a law requires a public health official to report a suspected link between a public hospital and a health crisis said he was prepared to hold off on a ruling until the appeals court reviews the case.
“I have a duty to the public to make decisions that are just and fair, and I am going to wait for that review to come to me,” U.S. District Judge Michael Sullivan told the judge overseeing the case, Judge Steven Colloton, as he read from a prepared statement.
“I’m not going to make a ruling before it’s been reviewed.”
Sullivan was nominated to the appeals bench by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 2007.
He has been presiding over the lawsuit against the state of Maine, which is suing the governor over a law that would require hospital officials to report any suspicious deaths or serious illnesses at public hospitals.
Under the state law, a health care worker who believes a person has contracted a communicable disease must report the person’s death to the local health department.
The governor is not required to report those deaths to the state health department, but Maine is arguing that the state’s law violates the Constitution.
Maine has not said how it would respond to the ruling.
In a statement, Sullivan said that he would continue to review the case and that he was “very confident” that it would reach a fair decision.
“We will now await the judicial review and make the right decision,” Sullivan said.
Colloton asked Sullivan how long the case will take to resolve, and Sullivan said he did not know.
“There is no rush to a decision,” he said.
The court heard oral arguments Tuesday afternoon in the case of the lawsuit by the Maine Association of Hospitals and Clinics, which argued that the Maine law violates free speech rights because it requires a person who knows a person is sick to report it.
The law also prevents health care workers from disclosing their suspicions of communicable diseases, according to the association.
Sullivan has been appointed by the governor to the court by Republican Gov.
The state is seeking to overturn the ruling on the basis that it is a public nuisance, according the association’s lawyers.
Collaton has not ruled on whether the governor’s health department can use the public health information to enforce the law, but he has ruled against other public health agencies in the past.
He made similar rulings in 2011 and 2012.
Magee is a former U.K. prosecutor who was a federal prosecutor in the U.N. Human Rights Committee, where he led investigations into alleged human rights abuses in Uganda, Rwanda and Darfur.
His nomination to the federal bench was announced in June.