New Jersey's mandatory quarantine for certain travelers from Ebola-stricken West Africa will likely face its first legal test this week, after a lawyer for a quarantined nurse said she would file a federal lawsuit within days.
Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer, said Kaci Hickox's isolation upon her return from West Africa raised "serious constitutional and civil liberties issues," given that she shows no Ebola symptoms and has not tested positive for the disease.
"We're not going to dispute that the government has, under certain circumstances, the right to issue a quarantine," said Siegel, who was on his way to visit Hickox in a New Jersey hospital. "The policy is overly broad when applied to her."
The lawsuit would be the first to challenge the 21-day mandatory quarantine imposed by New Jersey for anyone arriving with a high risk of having contracted Ebola from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, where the epidemic has killed nearly 5,000 people.
The case could also affect similar policies announced by other states including New York and Illinois.
The lawsuit will argue that Hickox's constitutional right to due process was violated when she was forced into isolation, Siegel said.
State officials implemented a blanket policy without identifying a rational basis for confining asymptomatic individuals like Hickox, he said.
"The case law makes clear that the policy should be driven by medical fact, not fear," he said.