Judge Rules To Limit California Governor Powers Amid Pandemic

A judge ruled on Monday to limit California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) executive powers during a pandemic.

Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman issued a preliminary order for Newsom to stop making executive orders that could contradict state laws after determining one of his orders was “an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power.”

Her order prevents Newsom “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.”

The judge determined that the California Emergency Services Act itself was constitutional but noted it “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,” the order says.

Heckman’s order will become final in 10 days if Newsom’s team does not challenge it. 

She is the second judge in the county to conclude Newsom was overstepping his authority, but the ruling is contradictory to other state and federal decisions on the governor’s emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic, The Associated Press noted. 

A spokesman for Newsom told The Hill that the administration does not agree with the ruling’s limitations and is “evaluating next steps.”

“The tentative ruling makes clear that the Governor’s statutory emergency authority is broad, and constitutional, and that the Governor has the authority, necessary in emergencies, to suspend statutes and issue orders to protect Californians,” the spokesman said.

Republican state Assemblymen James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley challenged Newsom, saying he was overstepping state law with his executive orders.

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

Newsom’s specific order in question involved requiring election officials to make hundreds of locations available for voters to cast ballots statewide. Lawmakers ended up approving the same mandate, so the order will not impact Election Day.


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