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MTP Reggie

A Pandemic Does Not Suspend the Rule of Law

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MTP Reggie

A Pandemic Does Not Suspend the Rule of Law
Courts are beginning to recognize that public health powers, while broad, are not a blank check.
JACOB SULLUM
5.20.2020 12:01 AM
Reason

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The recent court decisions overturning COVID-19 lockdowns in Wisconsin and Oregon focused on abstruse issues of statutory interpretation. But both cases also addressed a more fundamental question: Is the rule of law suspended during a public health emergency?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials have imposed unprecedented restrictions on our liberties and livelihoods, acting on the assumption that they can do whatever they think is necessary to protect the public from a potentially deadly disease. The courts, which were initially reluctant to second-guess state responses to COVID-19, are beginning to recognize that public health powers, while broad, are not a blank check.

The Wisconsin case involved a dispute between two branches of the state government. The Republican leaders of the state legislature argued that Andrea Palm, a Democrat who runs the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, was exercising powers she had never been granted when she ordered the closure of "nonessential" businesses and confined residents to their homes except for purposes she approved, threatening violators with fines and jail.

This case was not simply a partisan spat. It raised the question of whether a single executive branch official can unilaterally criminalize heretofore legal behavior, based on nothing more than her own judgment of what is required to protect public health.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court last week concluded that Palm's order qualified as a "rule" under state law, meaning she could not legally impose it without following emergency rulemaking procedures she admittedly ignored. Those procedures, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack said in the majority opinion, provide "the ascertainable standards that hinder arbitrary or oppressive conduct by an agency," ensuring that the "controlling, subjective judgment asserted by one unelected official…is not imposed in Wisconsin."

Palm argued that her order was authorized by a statute that says her department "may authorize and implement all emergency measures necessary to control communicable diseases." But as Justice Daniel Kelly noted in a concurring opinion, that broad interpretation erases the distinction between the legislative and executive branches.

"Under our constitutional form of government, the Legislature cannot possibly have given the Secretary the authority she believes she has," Kelly wrote. "If we agreed with the Secretary's reading of [the law], we would have to conclude the statute violated the separation of powers by conferring on the Secretary the power to make laws without going through the rule-making process."

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GrimV

According to our intellectual superiors, a pandemic *should* suspend the rule of law. The problem is, we love our freedom too much.

 

The freedom loving hillbillies are literally killing grandma. 

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Holland25
1 hour ago, GrimV said:

According to our intellectual superiors, a pandemic *should* suspend the rule of law. The problem is, we love our freedom too much.

 

The freedom loving hillbillies are literally killing grandma. 

The freedom loving hillbillies are literally killing grandma???? I got to admit that went straight over my head.

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MontyPython
44 minutes ago, Holland25 said:

The freedom loving hillbillies are literally killing grandma???? I got to admit that went straight over my head.

It was cynical sarcasm, I'm sure. Sardonicism, even.

Grim's one of the good guys.

:yes: 

 

 

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Ticked@TinselTown
4 hours ago, MontyPython said:

It was cynical sarcasm, I'm sure. Sardonicism, even.

Grim's one of the good guys.

:yes: 

 

 

Yes, he is.  

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