A Sutter County Superior Court judge tentatively ruled in favor of Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher (Yuba City) and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (Rocklin) on Monday, in their abuse of power lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom.
In the tentative ruling, Judge Sarah Heckman declared Newsom’s May executive order N-67-20 to be unconstitutional.
The governor’s order proclaimed a State of Emergency existed in California as result of the coronavirus pandemic, and that because of such, all registered voters would receive a vote-by-mail ballot.
The ruling will have no effect on the outcome of Tuesday’s election because the Legislature later took action on his order, but the tentative ruling does place a permanent injunction against the Governor, preventing him from unilaterally changing or creating state law through executive order moving forward.
“The Governor does not have the power or authority to assume the Legislature’s role of creating legislative policy and enactments,” the Judge noted in her ruling.
Newsom issued three executive orders during the current state of emergency specifically regarding the Nov. 3, 2020 general election and has issued more than 50 different executive orders changing numerous California statutes since the state of emergency was declared.
“We have been arguing that the California Emergency Services Act does not provide for one-man rule,” said Gallager and Kiley, in a joint statement Monday. “Today, the Court agreed with us.”
Gallagher and Kiley argued that the governor has continued to create and change state law during a declared emergency without the deliberative process provided by the Legislature and input from the public. Newsom, through executive order, has changed numerous statutes, from how to conduct public meetings to suspending educational requirements and medical privacy rules, among others.
“This is a victory for separation of powers,” Gallagher and Kiley said. “The judicial branch again gave (Newsom) the check that we needed and that the Constitution requires.”
Gallagher and Kiley concluded that nobody disputes that there are actions that should be taken to keep people safe during an emergency.
“But that doesn’t mean that we put our Constitution and free society on hold by centralizing all power in the hands of one man,” they said.
US Rep. Doug LaMalfa also agreed that the court victory brings the governor back down to earth, ensuring that policy-making powers remain in the Legislature.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Newsom has acted more like a monarch than one who seeks the consent of the governed in our Republic,” LaMalfa said, in a statement. “By making unilateral and hasty policy changes that benefit him and his party without input from the Legislature, he has been extremely harmful to rural California, its small businesses, and morale in general.” ♣