Gov. Newsom attorneys on defense in the first day of court case against COVID executive orders

Wednesday marked the first day of a court case against Governor Newsom’s use of executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic after he was sued by two state lawmakers who allege he has overstepped his authority and violated the state Constitution by acting as a “one-man government.”

State lawmakers Kevin Kiley and James Gallagher filed the lawsuit against Newsom after he signed executive order No. N-67-20 which required counties to mail all eligible voters vote-by-mail ballots and also regulates the number of polling places and vote-by-mail drop-off locations during this election.

Kiley, Gallagher and Newsom’s attorneys spent hours making their legal arguments before a judge on Wednesday, the first time the two sides have come face to face for a trial.“I thought it went well, I think the law is on our side,” Kiley said.

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“The facts are on our side, and certainly the public interest is on our side in terms of trying to restore some semblance of checks and balances in California.”

Kiley told FOX 11 he believes Newsom has drastically overstepped what California’s emergency powers allow him to do.“

He claims that right now because there’s a state of emergency, all the powers of the state, including the powers of the whole legislature, are in his hands, and we disagree with that, we don’t think there’s any authority in California law to make the state into a one-person government, and if there were a law that said that, it would go against that law,” he said.

Newsom’s attorneys said in court on Wednesday that the state legislature moves too slowly, and that the Governor had to exercise his authority to made decisions for the good of the public during the crisis.

Newsom’s office did not respond to FOX 11’s request for comment Wednesday afternoon.“That’s one of the things that they’ve argued, we’re in an emergency and it takes a long time to pass a law, so the governor should be able to snap his fingers and do it on his own,” Kiley said.

“It’s entirely rational for people to feel like that’s a lot of government in our lives, and that’s exactly right, it is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s illegal,” said Jessica Levinson, a constitutional law professor at Loyola Law School.

“The way our system is set up is governors have broad emergency authority, that includes for health, for safety, for welfare, so in times of emergencies, in times of crisis, governors can do things we never would have expected in normal times. 

Newsom has to show he’s serving an important governmental interest, and the way he’s serving it is a proper fit. The judge is expected to make her ruling in the next two days, and Kiley is feeling cautiously optimistic.

“I’m not sure that the governor’s attorneys really provided any legal argument to defend his conduct,” he said. “So I hope it will be an important moment for our state in putting an end to this idea that we can have an autocracy for 8 months with no end in sight.”

Kiley said that if the judge sides with his legal argument, he will ask that the Governor be restrained from issuing any further unconstitutional executive orders in the future.

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