No doubt some day the Monday morning quarterbacks will be in position to look back with perfect hindsight and conclude that we either overreacted to the COVID-19 pandemic or, worse, that we didn’t do enough.
But right now, decisions have had to be made. Here in New Hampshire, that has mostly fallen to Gov. Chris Sununu. Given the circumstances, he has made the right ones thus far.
What we find remarkable, however, is how compliant and unquestioning of authority the public has been.
Even in this age of divisiveness, even in the home of Live Free or Die, most people have simply gone along with rules that have upended their lives like nothing before.
Superior Court Judge John Kissinger made the correct call a week ago when three citizens questioned the governor’s authority to declare an emergency limiting the size of public gatherings. (It was 50 people then; now it is 10.)
But there was nothing wrong, and much right, with our system of laws that gives those citizens the right to question a law that impinged on their rights of free speech, assembly and religion. There is nothing frivolous about the First Amendment.
Manchester lawyer Daniel Hynes was able to state his clients’ contention that the evidence of the virus’ effect was not sufficient for the invoking of emergency powers that infringed on those rights.
State solicitor general Daniel Will noted that the emergency powers are not absolute. The Legislature may terminate an emergency declaration by a majority vote.
But, Will said, “The governor’s emergency powers are significant because they need to be.”
The judge ruled that a 2002 state law gave the governor broad powers to declare an emergency to protect the public.
“It is clear from the factual conclusions … that this is an extraordinary public health crisis, and the danger to the citizens of New Hampshire, the country and the world is real and it is imminent,” Kissinger said.
“A large portion of this effort is to prevent the harm from getting worse. Isn’t this a good use of the governor’s emergency powers?” Kissinger asked.
The judge found that the answer was “yes.” We agree. It was still good that someone asked the question.