BOSTON (State House News Service) — Gov. Charlie Baker overstepped constitutional separation of powers with his statewide response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new lawsuit filed by a national group on behalf of Massachusetts small business owners.
The New Civil Liberties Alliance, a non-profit group organized to fight what it describes as the "unconstitutional administrative state,"filed a case in Worcester Superior Court asking the judiciary to nullify Baker's March 10 state of emergency declaration and the dozens of executive orders he has issued since then.
In a virtual press conference organized with the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, which is not a party in the case, NCLA Senior Litigation Counsel Michael DeGrandis said the governor improperly used the Civil Defense Act to adopt emergency powers when the Public Health Act holds that disease control should be handled primarily by local boards of health.
DeGrandis said Baker's statewide orders closing non-essential businesses have inflicted harm on small businesses across the state, including 10 who are plaintiffs. He said the organization does not question Baker's motives, but wants to "restore constitutional order to government."
"The problem is when you square peg-round hole a Civil Defense state of emergency into a pandemic, you're not going to effectively treat the underlying problem," DeGrandis told reporters. "You're likely to make it worse because he doesn't have the tools he needs -- as in on-the-ground interaction with people in communities, not just in Boston, not just in Pittsfield, but everywhere in between -- he just doesn't have that ability."
While the Legislature has passed numerous new laws in response to the pandemic and its impacts, many of the major standards that are governing life and business during the crisis have been included in executive orders issued by Baker, who during the crisis has enjoyed high approval ratings in public opinion polls.
By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service
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