Judge: California Gov. Gavin Newsom Abused Power With Executive Order


Other than (maybe) Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, no Democratic governor in the country has used the coronavirus pandemic to usurp more unwarranted power than California’s Gavin Newsom.

On Monday, a judge ruled that Newsom abused his executive authority in June when he signed a requirement that the state establish hundreds of new locations across California where people could cast their votes in the general election. While the legislature later put the same mandate into law (meaning this week’s ruling will not affect it), Republican lawmakers still filed suit against Newsom’s order. The point of the lawsuit was not to stop this particular order but to put a clamp on the governor’s overall coronavirus mania.

The challenge started when Assemblymembers James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley filed suit, insisting that the governor’s Emergency Services Act from March specifically prohibited Newsom from making any new executive orders or enacting new laws from the governor’s mansion.

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Judge Sarah Heckman ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and issued a permanent injunction against Newsom preventing him from making any new executive orders that defy the state constitution.

“We have been arguing that the California Emergency Services Act does not provide for one-man rule. Today, the Court agreed with us,” Gallagher and Kiley said in a statement. “This is a victory for separation of powers. The governor has continued to create and change state law without public input and without the deliberative process provided by the Legislature. Today the judicial branch again gave him the check that was needed and that the Constitution requires.”

In her nine-page ruling on the case, Heckman said that the CESA “does not permit the Governor to amend statutes or make new statutes. The Governor does not have the power or authority to assume the Legislature’s role of creating legislative policy and enactments.”

In recent months, Newsom has taken broad liberties under the emergency act to shut down the state’s economy, drawing the ire of lawmakers who see him as a would-be dictator taking advantage of the pandemic.

“Nobody disputes that there are actions that should be taken to keep people safe during an emergency,” said Kiley and Gallagher. “But that doesn’t mean that we put our Constitution and free society on hold by centralizing all power in the hands of one man.”

If the court’s ruling stays intact, it could not only limit any further executive orders from Newsom but invalidate the ones already in effect. That could allow California businesses – many of which have had no choice but to shutter under the governor’s draconian orders – to open and attempt to salvage something out of this miserable situation. The ruling could also, eventually, set a legal precedent that limits other blue-state governors from following in Newsom’s dictatorial path.

At a moment when COVID cases are ticking up and Democrats are getting itchy trigger fingers, court rulings limiting their power may be just what the population needs.

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