Courts are beginning to recognize that public health powers, while broad, are not a blank check.
by Jacob Sullum
The recent court decisions overturning COVID-19 lockdowns in Wisconsin and Oregon focused on abstruse issues of statutory interpretation. But both cases also addressed a more fundamental question: Is the rule of law suspended during a public health emergency?
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials have imposed unprecedented restrictions on our liberties and livelihoods, acting on the assumption that they can do whatever they think is necessary to protect the public from a potentially deadly disease. The courts, which were initially reluctant to second-guess state responses to COVID-19, are beginning to recognize that public health powers, while broad, are not a blank check.