Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom has come under frequent fire for his leadership throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and a recent court decision provided further opposition.’
According to the Los Angeles Times, a superior court judge reminded Newsom of his limits within the executive branch and barred him from taking further actions ordinarily associated with the jurisdiction of the state legislature.
A nine-page ruling
The decision came as a result of a lawsuit filed by two GOP state Assemblymen, James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley, in response to an executive order in June that changed the state’s election laws to allow for mail-in ballots to be automatically sent to California’s 22 million registered voters.
In response, the governor’s office argued that the case was moot and should be withdrawn since the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature subsequently passed a bill allowing for the same provision as Newsom’s order.
Nevertheless, the Republican lawmakers who filed the suit argued that he exceeded his authority — and the court agreed.
Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman ruled that the heart of the lawsuit had less to do with the impending election and more to do with Newsom’s constitutional overreach.
In her nine-page ruling, the judge acknowledged that the California Emergency Services Act, which Newsom has repeatedly cited as the basis for several coronavirus-related executive orders, was constitutional and did provide the governor with an abundance of authority.
“A victory for separation of powers”
That authority is not without firm limits, though, as she went on to determine.
She wrote: “The CESA allows the Governor, during a state of emergency, to issue orders and regulations and to suspend certain statutes, but the plain and unambiguous language of CESA does not permit the Governor to amend statutes or make new statute.”
Heckman further ruled that Newsom “does not have the power or authority to assume the Legislature’s role of creating legislative policy and enactments.”
She provided both parties in the case a 10-day window during which they could respond to the ruling before it would take effect.
While Newsom naturally disagreed, the pair of assemblymen behind the lawsuit celebrated it as a victory: “This is a victory for separation of powers. The governor has continued to create and change state law without public input and without the deliberative process provided by the Legislature. Today the judicial branch again gave him the check that was needed and that the Constitution requires.”