One Catholic priest has had enough of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s seemingly endless “State of Emergency” and the constitutional violations incurred with the resultant lockdown. Attorneys from the Thomas More Society have filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court against Newsom and 19 other state, county and municipal officials on behalf of Father Trevor Burfitt. Submitted on September 29, 2020, the case charges each of the named parties with eight distinct violations of Burfitt’s rights under the Constitution of California.

Burfitt oversees mission churches in Kern, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Los Angeles Counties, each of which has been severely restricted during Newsom’s seven-month lockdown of the state of California. These restrictions imposed and enforced by Newsom and the other named officials in the name of COVID-19 have severely obstructed the rights of Burfitt and others throughout California, despite the guarantees promised in the state Constitution.

The complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief for the constitutional violations committed by Newsom and those under his authority throughout California. The filing states that “Newsom’s lockdown was originally supposed to be only a temporary emergency measure. However, nearly seven months later it appears that, absent judicial intervention, there will never be a ‘reopening’ to normal, pre-COVID activity, despite incontestable facts – including California’s own data…showing that the lockdown is no longer warranted and is causing far more harm than good.”

The lawsuit details how Burfitt’s priestly ministry has been radically and severely restricted by Newsom’s lockdown in several specific ways, and argues three key constitutional points of order:

1.      Under the California Constitution a public health “emergency” cannot be whatever the governor says is an emergency, nor end only when he says so – no matter how long it continues or how dubious the rationale for its prolongation.

2.      The California Constitution does not permit the state’s governor to impose any “emergency” restriction of fundamental rights that he deems appropriate. Rather, any restrictions or measures that the governor imposes must be narrowly tailored, limited in time, and serve interests of the highest order, as opposed to any goal that the governor wishes to achieve.

3.      There cannot be absolute judicial deference to the exercise of a governor’s purported “emergency” powers. Rather, there must be a judicial inquiry into the factual basis for their invocation, their limits, and their continuation, with the burden of proof being on the state at all times. To hold otherwise would allow tyranny to be exercised by the executive branch and incur a total abandonment of the separation of powers intrinsic to California’s constitutional scheme.

Story from Thomas More Society. Read the Complaint charging eight counts of violation of California Constitutional guarantees, filed on September 29, 2020, by the Thomas More Society on behalf of Father Trevor Burfitt, in Father Trevor Burfitt v. Gavin Newsom, et al. at the Superior Court of the State of California – County of Kern – Metro Division, here.