Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court denied a petition from two local assemblymen to hear an appeal of a court of appeals decision that upheld the legality of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order regarding elections.

Assemblymen James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, and Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, filed a lawsuit against Newsom last year challenging an executive order issued by the governor that changed several portions of the election code in response to the ongoing pandemic. In November 2020, Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman sided with the legislators overturning Newsom’s executive order and imposing a permanent injunction on the governor from exercising certain powers under emergency circumstances.

The governor’s legal team appealed the decision to the Third District Court of Appeal. In May, the appellate court overturned the superior court ruling. On June 14, Gallagher and Kiley filed their petition for the state Supreme Court to review the appellate court decision.

“This was a misguided attack on California’s Emergency Services Act – a law signed by Governor (Ronald) Reagan that governors have relied on for over 50 years to ensure that the state can quickly mobilize resources to respond to emergencies -- like the COVID-19 pandemic, Oroville spillway emergency or the devastating Camp Fire,” a statement from the governor’s press office read. “It’s a law that carefully balances the Legislature’s and governor’s roles, and we’re glad the state Supreme Court recognized there was no need to entertain fringe legal theories that sought to upset that balance.”

Gallagher said in an email Monday that a focus should be placed on guarding democratic institutions and the separation of powers.

“One person, or one agency of government, cannot have all police powers to make, execute and adjudicate law,” Gallagher said. “The powers of government must remain separate to check abuses, and laws must be made by elected legislators with input from the public. Nor should that balance of power change in an emergency.”

He said it has been during emergencies that civil rights abuses have occurred. Gallagher cited the executive order that led to Japanese internment during World War II.

“It is disappointing that the California Supreme Court has decided to stay silent and allow this dangerous precedent to stand,” Gallagher said. “In doing so they have continued a very sad and dangerous legacy that began with the Korematsu decision: refusing to check the abuse of executive power and protect core constitutional rights because of apparently stronger political headwinds.”

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