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Florida judge who killed travel mask mandate was Trump appointee who never tried case

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Five days after the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention ordered an extension to their travel mask mandate for airplanes and public transport, a Tampa-based federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump voided the order.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody had previously begun a lawsuit against the mandate, which the state announced on March 29. On April 18, Middle District of Florida Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizzelle voided the CDC’s mandate, ending travel mask requirements.

So who is the judge in Tampa who brought down the mask order on Monday?

Mizzelle was appointed to the bench by Trump in 2020, at the age of 33. Her appointment was not without opposition. The American Bar Association cited her lack of experience in trying cases in court, having only served as counsel twice while still in law school, as reason to declare her unqualified to be a federal district court judge. At the time, Mizzelle had only been a licensed attorney for eight years, according to the ABA.

“Mizelle has been a practicing lawyer for a little less than eight years, far short of the 12-year minimum experience the ABA says a judicial nominee should have. Mizelle has also never tried a case,” The ABA said in 2020. The organization said it was that factor “Which the ABA said led a ‘substantial majority’ of its Standing Committee members — which vote on whether a president’s judicial nominees are qualified to serve on the federal bench — to determine Mizelle is not qualified to serve.”

Most of Mizzelle’s law experience is from her time spent clerking for big names in conservative circles. A Florida-educated attorney, Mizzelle served as a law clerk for US District Judge James S Moody, Jr. from 2012 to 2013 and for Judge William H. Pryor Jr. of the 11th Circuit the following year.

Moody, Jr. is the father of current Florida AG Moody.

Additionally, Mizzelle spent time working in the US Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia, as a trial attorney in the Tax Division of the US Department of Justice Southern Criminal Enforcement Section, and as a law clerk for Judge Gregory G. Katsas, a US Appeals Court judge in the DC Circuit, before clerking for Justice Clarence Thomas of the US Supreme Court.

Mizzelle entered private practice in Washington from 2019 to 2020. The ABA reported in 2020 that Mizzelle was the 10th Trump nominee to earn a “not qualified” rating for federal district court judges chosen by the former president.

While the ABA’s Standing Committee, who provides recommendations on judicial appointments, said Mizelle was intelligent and had a strong work ethic, they did not find her experience to be enough to justify the appointment. In a letter sent to Senate Judiciary Committee members Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein, the ABA described Mizzelle’s experience as lacking meaningful trial experience.

“Since her admission to the bar Ms. Mizelle has not tried a case, civil or criminal, as lead or co-counsel. Of her four distinguished federal clerkships, one clerkship was in the trial court. That year, plus her 10 months at a reputable law firm and approximately three years in government practice translates into 5 years of experience in the trial courts,” the ABA wrote. “Ms. Mizzelle has a very keen intellect, a strong work ethic and an impressive resume. She presents as a delightful person and she has many friends who support her nomination. Her integrity and demeanor are not in question. These attributes however simply do not compensate for the short time she has actually practiced law and her lack of meaningful trial experience.”

Despite opposition to her appointment by the ABA and “Nay” votes by every Democratic senator, Mizelle was confirmed as a federal court justice for the Middle District of Florida on November 18, 2020. She was voted into her current role split 49-41.

Her service as a federal judge is a lifetime appointment.

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