In welcome news for Republicans and conservatives, a superior court judge has limited California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s power to create new laws outside of the state legislature in an emergency.
The ruling comes as business owners across California are growing frustrated with the Democrat governor’s stifling coronavirus restrictions.
Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman ruled that Newsom can no longer make use of the “California Emergency Services Act” in ways which “amends, alters, or changes existing statutory law or makes new statutory law or legislative policy,” PJ Media reported.
This is the second time that a California court has had to remind Newsom that he is not a dictator and that the legislature still plays a vital role in adjusting or creating laws, even during a pandemic.
The governor can’t usurp the legislature
Judge Heckman said that one of Newsom’s dozens of executive orders was “an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power” and issued a broad injunction that prohibited him from taking any further actions of the sort, SFGate reported. The injunction will go into effect in 10 days unless Newsom appeals or raises another challenge to it.
Notably, she did not strike down the California Emergency Services Act itself as being unconstitutional. However, she wrote that the law “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 judge’s ruling came in what otherwise might be considered a moot case, as two Republican Assemblymen had filed the lawsuit against Newsom for making changes in June to the state’s election laws — changes that were later adopted anyway by the Democrat-controlled legislature. Thus, while the ruling will have no bearing on the election law changes, it will prevent Newsom from enacting any further changes without legislative input.
Restoring the separation of powers
James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley, the two Assemblymen behind the suit, said in a joint statement, “This is a victory for separation of powers.” They accused Newsom of having “continued to create and change state law without public input and without the deliberative process provided by the Legislature.”
The duo acknowledged the constitutionality and usefulness of the Emergency Services Act but added that it “doesn’t mean that we put our Constitution and free society on hold by centralizing all power in the hands of one man.”
SFGate reported that Kiley has compiled a 28-page list of various orders issued by Newsom regarding a plethora of issues, not all of which were clearly connected to the pandemic and, interestingly enough, were joined in their sharp criticisms of the governor — though not in the lawsuit — by some of their Democratic counterparts in the legislature.
“The Judge has ruled in our case against Gavin Newsom. We won. The Judge found good cause to issue a permanent injunction restraining the Governor from issuing further unconstitutional orders,” Kiley tweeted in response to the ruling.
Gallagher weighed in as well, and wrote on Twitter, “This was never political; it was never partisan. This ruling will affect whoever is governor, not just this governor, but those in the future. It’s about respecting that balance of power and the fundamental separation of powers that is fundamental to our system of government.”