Who Is Kathryn Mizelle? Trump-Appointed Judge Who Struck Down Mask Mandate

Federal judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the national mask mandate for transportation including airplanes and trains on Monday.

Mizelle, appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled that the mandate exceeded the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Her lengthy 59-page ruling also said the CDC failed to justify the mandate.

In her ruling, Mizelle said the only remedy is to void the mandate as it would be impossible to end it for only those who objected by filing the lawsuit, according to the Associated Press.

"Because our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends, the court declares unlawful and vacates the mask mandate," she wrote.

Mizelle currently serves as a judge on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. She was appointed to the position by Trump in August 2020 and was confirmed by the Senate three months later, with 49 Republicans voting in her support and 41 Democrats voting against her. Mizelle was appointed to the bench at 33, making her one of the youngest federal judges in the nation.

Kathryn Kimball Mizelle strikes down mask mandate
Federal judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the national mask mandate for transportation Monday. Above, people are seen wearing face masks on a train in Washington D.C. on April 14. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

Prior to her nomination to the court, she worked as an attorney at the Jones Day law firm and served at the Department of Justice as Counsel to the Associate Attorney General, a trial attorney in the Tax Division and as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

She also served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas after graduating from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Trump's nomination of Mizelle drew criticism from some in the legal community. At the time, the American Bar Association (ABA) wrote in a letter to Senators Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein they determined she was "not qualified" for the position.

In the letter, the ABA wrote Mizelle began to practice law eight years earlier — a "departure" from the 12-year minimum the ABA's committee uses as a benchmark for determining qualifications of nominees — and that she had not tried a case as lead or co-counsel. However, the ABA's letter praised her as having a "very keen intellect, a strong work ethic and an impressive resume."

Mizelle has also faced opposition from liberal groups including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, who condemned her "extreme right-wing ideology."

She is a member of the Federalist Society, an organization consisting of generally conservative lawyers, scholars and others who believe in the "originalist" interpretation of the United States Constitution.

Mizelle also received praise from Republicans, including Utah Senator Mike Lee who called her "exceptionally qualified" during her confirmation for her position as a federal judge.

"It is unusual that I see an individual who has been out of law school for this period of time who has accumulated this much experience," he said at the time.

Her husband, Chad Mizelle, previously served in the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration.

This story has been updated with additional information on Kathryn Mizelle's background.