Many Governors and public health officials asserted they have supreme power in a public health emergency. One public health official said the Constitution itself may be suspended in a public health emergency – which is not true (unfortunately I did not save the link when I saw that in spring of 2020).
The Courts have ruled against numerous public health Orders – state laws and Constitutions and the U.S. Constitution remain intact and functional.
- In May, Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the state’s “Safer at home” Order.
- In Kentucky, a Judge called draconian city-wide lock up measures and recording church go’ers license plates as “stunning” and “unconstitutional”. The Kentucky Governor was directed to stop issuing executive orders on covid-19.
- In September, Federal court ruled Pennsylvania’s lock up orders unconstitutional.
- San Francisco relented after the DoJ wrote a memo saying San Francisco’s restrictions on churches were unconstitutional. A day later San Francisco amended its rules to comply with the Constitution.
- NYC is being sued over Covid-19 restrictions targeting Jews.
- In October, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against the Michigan Governors indefinite emergency Orders ruling she had no authority to continue her emergency orders forever. My own state, however, has an actual law that permits the Governor to unilaterally renew her emergency declaration forever without seeking consultation or approval from the people or the Legislature. She has renewed her order, now, out to 11 months (As of Mar 2021, now out to 13 months).
- In October, a court struck down draconian Washington DC Orders that denied churches the opportunity to operate the same as other organizations and businesses.
- In Spain, a court overturned the government’s lock up Order.
- In October, a Pennsylvania Court has ruled that the Governor’s public health Orders are not enforceable.
- In November, a Judge ruled against part of California Governor Newsom’s Covid-19 Orders.
- In November, the US Supreme Courts writes “Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten“
- In December, Judge orders Los Angeles County to show its evidence for outdoor dining ban – and to provide a full risk vs benefits analysis. Closing all restaurants is not risk free either, he points out. They are due back in Court in 7 days. Update: Judge rules the outdoor restaurant ban was arbitrary and not supported by evidence. The full Court ruling is here.
- In December, US Supreme Court rules against Colorado restrictions on churches.
- In December, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals strikes down Nevada’s restrictions on churches.
- In December, US Supreme Court strikes down some rules applied to churches in New Jersey plus churches on Colorado.
- Appeals Court rules against Nevada’s public health Orders on church capacity.
- In December, after a prior Court Order expired in San Diego, County officials forced closure of a strip club. The next morning, a Judge extended the Court Order to permit them to remain open and also said it applies to restaurants. The County is now considering new legal options.
- In December, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is questioning which business capacity constraints are legal.
- On December 19th, Los Angeles County gave up its attempt to ban indoor church activities.
“The Los Angeles County Health Officer Order will be modified today to align with recent Supreme Court rulings for places of worship. Places of worship are permitted to offer faith-based services both indoors and outdoors with mandatory physical distancing and face coverings over both the nose and mouth that must be worn at all times while on site. Places of worship must also assure that attendance does not exceed the number of people who can be accommodated while maintaining a physical distance of six feet between separate households.”
- In December, a Washington state judge ruled against the state’s fines on a private gym saying the state failed to provide evidence of risks due to Covid-19. This ruling may impact fines assessed on other gyms in the state.
- December 21, 2020: Gov Newsom, California, sued for “gross abuse of power” and violations of U.S. and state constitution.
- December 22, 2020: Oregon government sued over the ban on evictions of tenants, who some cases, have paid no rent for 9 months. As of November, the state’s unemployment rate is 6.0%, dramatically lower than the 14+% levels of the springtime. The state has not given a metric or goal to what level would permit evictions for non-payment; it’s as if they have nationalized private property. A Court challenge against this government order was lost. By early 2022, with unemployment at 3.9%, many jurisdictions were still maintaining bans on evictions. What level of unemployment would justify removing these bands?
- December 28, 2020: Federal Appeals Court rules against NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on churches.
- In February 2021 the US Supreme Court struck down California’s prohibition on church services. The Court noted that California’s argument fell flat – people were permitted to enter stores, shopping malls and bus terminals and there was no time limited placed on staying in those venues. Yet California banned indoor church activities.
- In February, a Court in the Netherlands ruled that their country’s curfew was illegal.
- In February 2021, a Federal judge ruled the Federal (CDC) prohibition on property evictions is unconstitutional. The CDC did not have legal authority to regulate housing.
- In March 2021 a Federal appeals Court panel agreed with lower court rulings that the CDC’s ban on evictions is unconstitutional. This now goes to a full Court review.
- In March 2021, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the Governor had unconstitutionally extended his emergency orders after a 60-day limit had expired and requires consultation with the Legislature.
- In April 2021, the US Supreme Court rules against California’s restrictions on home-based religious gatherings. There are many religions, such as Bahai, that do most of their gathering in small groups in private homes and not in formal church buildings.
- In May 2021, a Federal Court rules against the CDC’s moratorium eviction, saying the CDC, under the Public Health Act, lacks jurisdiction to regulated housing and housing contracts.
- In May 2021, Pennsylvania voters sharply restrict the Governor’s Emergency Powers, after seeing what occurred during the pandemic. (In my State, the Governor can declare an emergency for 60 days, and then can has extended it every sixty days, for a year. She can and did issue unilateral Orders that could not be touched by our elected representatives. This is probably not what anyone had in mind.)
- In July 2021, Spain’s Constitutional Court (like US Supreme Court) ruled that their lock down orders were unconstitutional.
- August 2021, Spain’s Constitutional Court rules against “vaccine passports”.
- September 2021: San Joaquin County and the State of California ordered to pay a Church $500,000 in damages after Public Health ordered the Church to be locked, prohibiting church members and officials from accessing their own property.
- November 2021 – Pennsylvania Court strikes down public health’s mask mandate in schools saying that public health lacks the legal authority to make that mandate.
- November 2021. A Court in Missouri rules the state public health department had no authority to create its own law on face masks. News article on this here. The government’s law-making bodies (legislature) and regulation makers (regulatory agencies) can make rules, but public health was never given that authority in their state Constitution. Public health acted as an authoritarian rule maker, denying public input into the law or rulemaking process. I presume, cities and counties could step in and establish mask mandates through legal approaches.
- December 2021: Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules the state’s mask mandate for schools is not valid. This appears to be the final result after the state likely appealed the lower court ruling, from November.
- December 2021: In Belgium, a government advisory group suspended the Cabinet’s mandatory closing of various businesses.
- In January 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that OSHA had no legal authority to impose vaccine mandates on most workers in the United States. One week later, another Federal judge blocked Biden’s Executive Order, mandating vaccination of Federal workers.
- In January 2022, a Michigan Court rules that the state’s shutdown of a restaurant under Covid rules was unconstitutional (Moore Murphy Hospitality versus Michigan Department of Public Health and Human Services, 46th Circuit Court, Otsego County, Michigan.)
- In January 2022, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals rules that California County’s shut down of gun and ammunition retail stores, due to Covid, was unconstitutional. The Court noted that bicycle stores were permitted to remain open.
- In January 2022, a New York State Supreme Court Justice rules the state’s mask mandate unconstitutional.
(This list is periodically updated. Note that what is ruled against in one state may be permitted in another state – each state has its own Constitution and laws.)
- A pandemic does not suspend the rule of law
- In my state, the Governor can declare an emergency and legally act as a de facto dictator for an indefinite period of time. Some states restrict the Governor’s emergency declaration to a specific duration – such as 30 days, during which the Governor must seek approval from the Legislature to extend the emergency beyond 30 days (or whatever the period is). Update: As of December 2021, my state’s Governor has unilaterally extended her “State of Emergency” declaration through June of 2022. She intends to stop ruling by Executive Order and will now turn to the traditional regulatory process (which requires consultations with the public before issuing new rules).
- U.S. Attorney General notes that even in a public health emergency, Constitutional protections still exist.
In early December, the US Supreme Court ruled, within another ruling, that the U.S. Constitution is not suspended during a pandemic.
Unfortunately, numerous public health officials were unaware of this. That they were unaware is appalling. It is their responsibility to know the laws and regulations concerning the immense power they are given.
Last spring, I read a quote from a public health official saying the Constitution could be waived during a public health emergency (and the Constitution was suspended); unfortunately, I can no longer find that quote.
Public health quacks should not be practicing law without a license. Fair is fair, right?