Can A State Of Emergency Last Indefinitely?

By | May 7, 2021 | 0 Comments

Fourteen months ago, California Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency for Covid-19. Since then he has ruled by decree, setting aside some laws and enacting others, usurping the powers of the legislature. Rural counties challenged this prolonged state of emergency, and a lower court judge agreed to end it. Newsom appealed, and now a 3-judge panel of a court of appeals ruled unanimously for Newsom. The court set no time limit for a state of emergency, which now can last indefinitely – thus suspending the state constitution and state laws, as well as making a joke of the separation of powers.

In addition, the US Constitution is in effect suspended. It guarantees states a republican form of government – that is, an executive, a legislature, and courts. One person ruling by decree hardly satisfies this requirement.

There are now two possible remedies: (1) The state supreme court could rule against Newsom. Or (2) the state legislature could pass a law ending the state of emergency – but Newsom could veto it, and it would be hard to muster a 2/3 majority to override the veto. Of course, Newsom himself could end the state of emergency if he felt it would help his chances to avoid being recalled. But this would leave undecided the question of whether a governor can decide to rule by decree for more than a year with no one to rein him in.

This is not merely a legal question. It is, to use an overused word, existential. If a governor, or a president, can declare a state of emergency without a reasonable termination date, and can rule by decree as long as it suits him or her, then in effect we have no Constitution, and our freedoms hang by a thread.

We are already being told that climate change is an existential threat. It presumably has lasted for decades if not centuries. If a state of emergency can last 14 months, why can’t it last 14 years, or indefinitely?  Stay tuned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social Widgets powered by