The State Of California: Lawsuits Challenge Health Orders Statewide

Doug Sovern
May 27, 2020 - 4:52 pm

    Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state of California are being sued, on multiple fronts, over their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

    The governor is under legal attack in separate suits, for not allowing religious services, keeping beauty salons closed and planning to mail ballots to all registered California voters in November, not to mention suits brought by Orange County beachgoers and owners of gun shops.

    One thing all of these lawsuits have in common is the San Francisco lawyer who’s representing those various clients. She is Harmeet K. Dhillon, former vice chair of the California Republican Party, the Republican National Committeewoman for California and owner of the Dhillon Law Group in San Francisco. She also founded the Center for American Liberty, which has been involved in some of these suits. She was a guest on KCBS Radio’s "The State of California."

    More than 70% of Californians already vote that way. Officials and independent studies say there is very little voter fraud associated with it. Why shouldn’t California make it easier for people to vote safely this November without risking getting the coronavirus?

    I think California can do that and do that within a reasonable framework that prevents fraud. Other states have addressed the coronavirus situation. Michigan, for example, by choosing to mail an application or request for a vote-by-mail ballot to all active voters. I think that’s a reasonable way to approach it. That way, you get a return from someone who lives at that address. You get a signature. You get some verification that the person is expecting a ballot. What Gov. Newsom wants to do is beyond what any other governor has done in this country, which is basically in his original proposal spam every registered voter with a ballot, whether they want it or not. Many registered voters, like myself, who are in good health, actually prefer to go in person. My husband prefers a mail-in ballot. We also have the right to have that handled differently. To your point about the number of people who vote by mail, I don’t think that’s strictly accurate. In the recent primary, it is correct that approximately 70% of people who chose to vote in that primary did it that way. This is a general election in November that we’re talking about that typically has higher turnout of people voting. In some cases, people would prefer to vote in person. Sitting here today in May, it is not at all clear that the governor’s emergency powers extend to events that are taking place six months from now with no evidence that it is going to be a health crisis. I’m all for people voting safely. Every single Californian voting who is eligible to vote and zero people who are not eligible to vote.

    Are there inconsistencies in the Republicans’ approach to voting?

    Not at all. I think you’re kind of reading from some canned talking points there. The lawsuit does not attack absentee voting. Absentee voting is fine. I just gave you an example of a Republican in my household that likes to vote that way. The problem is unsolicited absentee ballots. The other problem is, specific to California, incredibly sloppy record keeping of our polls. Just last year, the Secretary of State settled a lawsuit against Judicial Watch in Los Angeles County, which accused Los Angeles of having 1.5 million people on the voter rolls in that county who are not eligible to vote - 1.5 million in one county out of the 58 counties in California. That is the problem. The problem is not eery single person in California who wants to vote absentee. They can do that. I welcome that. I embrace that and the party has no problem with that. The problem is the slopiness and the lack of accountability. Those are the two big problems. To your other point regarding the (issue with polling places during a special election in Southern California), that’s another problem with the governor’s team. We have no problem with the governor announcing in advance in conjunction with the registrars of voters exactly where polling places are well in advance. What the governor did in the recent special election, is unilaterally a few days before the election, announce that he was going to put extra polling places in Democratic areas. That’s ridiculous. I would not support it in Texas or a Republican state, either. That’s not how we do elections in America. We do it in advance with neutral rules. We don’t have extra voting places for Democratic districts. So, I’m opposed to that. The governor has reserved the right for himself to do that in the November election as well. That’s a problem with this scheme. Let’s have even enforcement. Let’s have fair rules. Let’s not make it up as we go as this governor has done.

    Let’s move on to the lawsuit over houses of worship. The governor has announced they can reopen with certain restrictions. Is that good enough? Why?

    So, there’s three lawsuits, one of which is currently sitting on the desk of Supreme Court Justice (Elena) Kagan on this issue of the governor’s unconstitutional and arbitrary restrictions on faith that do not actually apply to commercial establishments. I think the governor made it worse with his recent order although people are allowed to worship. They’re subject to arbitrary restrictions of 100 people or 25%, that do not apply to any other type of establishment in California. There’s no such limitation on Costco. There’s no such limitation on alcohol or the marijuana stores. There’s no such limitations on media or entertainment that’s allowed to operate. That’s unconstitutional. It also does not take into consideration that if you have a Catholic cathedral, it may seat 2,000 people. Why is there a 100 person limitation? We have mega churches in Southern California that sat thousands of people. The 100 person limitation is illogical and unconstitutional. Out of the three cases that I’m involved with, two with other law firms, we will not be dismissing these cases. We just field our appeals recently, one with the 9th Circuit last night and all of these cases are going forward.

    Do you think the governor making these decisions by a whim and not by science and data, as he claims?

    It’s definitely not science and data. They haven’t produced a shred of it in court. It’s only been fear mongering. The first hearing, his attorney general pointed to death figures in Iran and New York as a basis for the hysteria here in California. He’s continued to cling to numbers from other states as a basis for the situation in California. I don’t challenge the governor’s sincerity in regard to religion. I just don’t think it’s that important for him compared to people of faith. Most people of faith do not just go to church once a year for Easter and then go out for brunch. That’s not what it is. It’s a daily or a weekly or regular practice for them. Telling them its simply not important and as the attorney general of the state of California said in that first hearing, that it’s kind of like Coachella or it’s kind of like going to a sporting event, it’s not kind of like those things. They really don’t get it, how important it is to people. It’s not just important to them, It’s constitutionally protected. Our country was founded on the principle that the government couldn’t tell you how to worship.