Sunday, September 13, 2020

“I do believe that that authority has been there to deal with disasters”

From the Milford Daily News and CommonWealth Magazine, articles of interest for Franklin:

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s highest court is poised to decide whether Gov. Charlie Baker’s string of executive orders were a legally appropriate response to contain the highly infectious virus or if he overstepped the authority outlined in law.

An attorney representing business owners and religious leaders who sued the Baker administration argued in court Friday that Baker has “turned the government upside-down” by taking significant individual action, rather than executing laws passed by the Legislature, during the public health crisis.

“At this point, the Legislature is left to approve or disapprove of the governor’s policy choices,” Michael DeGrandis, a lawyer with the New Civil Liberties Alliance, told justices. “That’s not how it’s supposed to work. The governor is merely supposed to execute the policy choices of the Legislature. For the Legislature to make a change, the Legislature would also have to have a veto-proof majority to do so. That is standing the government on its head. That’s not a republican form of government.”

Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required) 

"SEVERAL MEMBERS of the Supreme Judicial Court seemed wary on Friday of upending the fight against COVID-19 during a hearing on a case challenging the sweeping powers Gov. Charlie Baker has exercised over the last seven months in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The justices, meeting via a Zoom call, are being asked to declare the governor’s March 10 emergency declaration and his subsequent slew of executive orders illegal and void. The plaintiffs, a group of business owners and pastors, say the governor’s reliance on the 1950 Civil Defense Act for his authority was improper. They say the governor should have relied on the older Public Health Law that specifically deals with infectious diseases and grants additional powers to local boards of health. If the governor needs more authority to deal with the crisis, the plaintiffs say, he should go to the Legislature and ask for those powers.

There was a lot of legal discussion between the justices and the attorneys representing Baker and the plaintiffs, but the judges at various points seemed genuinely concerned about what would happen on the ground if they sided with the plaintiffs.

“Don’t you have to admit that Gov. Baker has done a pretty darn good job here, especially when you compare him to other states?” asked Justice Elspeth Cypher, who was appointed to the SJC by Baker."

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