Judge limits California governor's powers during pandemic

A Northern California county judge on Monday preliminarily ordered Gov. Gavin Newsom to stop issuing directives related to the coronavirus that might interfere with state law.

Posted: Nov 2, 2020 3:15 PM
Updated: Nov 2, 2020 5:07 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A Northern California county judge has preliminarily ordered Gov. Gavin Newsom to stop issuing directives related to the coronavirus that might interfere with state law.

Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman tentatively ruled that one of the dozens of executive orders Newsom has issued overstepped his authority and impinged on the state Legislature.

She more broadly barred him “from exercising any power under the California Emergency Services Act which amends, alters, or changes existing statutory law or makes new statutory law or legislative policy.”

It’s the second time a judge in the same county has reached the same conclusion, which runs counter to other state and federal court decisions backing the governor’s emergency powers. An appeals court quickly stayed the earlier order in June.

Heckman’s decision will become final in 10 days unless Newsom’s attorneys can raise new challenges. Newsom did not immediately comment or say if he will appeal.

The case centers on a single Newsom executive order in June requiring election officials to establish hundreds of locations statewide where voters can cast ballots in the November election. But lawmakers subsequently approved the same requirement, and the judge’s decision will have no effect on Tuesday’s election.

She acted in a lawsuit brought by Republican Assemblymen James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley, who said Newsom, a Democrat, was single-handedly overriding state laws in the name of keeping Californians safe.

“This is a victory for separation of powers,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. Newsom “has continued to create and change state law without public input and without the deliberative process provided by the Legislature.”

Heckman wrote in a nine-page decision that the California Emergency Services Act “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.”

Newsom used his emergency powers to virtually shut down the state and its economy in the early weeks of the pandemic.

“Nobody disputes that there are actions that should be taken to keep people safe during an emergency,” the lawmakers said. “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.”

Kiley compiled a 28-page list of Newsom’s orders that alter existing state laws, from halting evictions to how public meetings are conducted.

The governor also extended deadlines for businesses to renew licenses, file reports, or pay taxes; delayed consumers’ late fees for paying taxes or renewing drivers licenses; suspended school districts’ deadlines and instructional requirements; suspended medical privacy rules; and allowed grocery stores to hand out free single-use bags.

One order allowed couples to be married by video or teleconference, with marriage licenses and certificates digitally signed and sent by email.

Lawmakers of both political parties have criticized Newsom for not properly consulting with them before issuing sweeping orders and budget decisions.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3543340

Reported Deaths: 49888
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles118349620069
Riverside2885413695
San Bernardino2850812651
Orange2598573848
San Diego2578053218
Santa Clara1095061747
Kern102137786
Fresno945841397
Sacramento926211446
Alameda797961200
Ventura76947805
San Joaquin662901042
Contra Costa61865653
Stanislaus55487937
Tulare47680731
Monterey42016323
San Mateo38552502
San Francisco33947394
Santa Barbara31630398
Solano29882161
Merced28749393
Sonoma27845295
Imperial26840587
Kings21916218
Placer19661231
San Luis Obispo19500221
Madera15325201
Santa Cruz14516174
Marin13083197
Yolo12689185
Shasta10950172
Butte10855158
El Dorado906995
Napa895068
Sutter881896
San Benito572358
Yuba571936
Lassen559419
Tehama506852
Tuolumne392959
Nevada390974
Mendocino379043
Amador343840
Humboldt313633
Lake310740
Glenn220723
Colusa212513
Calaveras190225
Siskiyou172013
Inyo127835
Mono12084
Del Norte9765
Plumas6516
Modoc4504
Mariposa3937
Trinity3525
Sierra990
Alpine800
Unassigned00
Chico
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Oroville
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Chico
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Red Bluff
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Chico
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Hi: 64° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 50°
Strong wind continues to blow through the valley this afternoon, and will last through the evening. Thursday will still be a fairly breezy day, but the wind won't be as strong and our temperatures will be warmer. More wind is coming Friday and Saturday.
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