The Supreme Court got rid of a pandemic-related immigration case with a single sentence.
Justice Neil Gorsuch had a lot more to say, however, leveling harsh criticism at how governments, from small towns to the nation’s capital, responded to COVID-19.
The justice, a 55-year-old conservative who was President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, called measures taken by government officials during the pandemic perhaps “the greatest intrusions on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country.”
He pointed to orders closing schools, restricting church services, mandating vaccines and prohibiting evictions.
His broadside was aimed at local, state and federal officials — even his colleagues.
“Executive officials across the country issued emergency decrees on a breathtaking scale,” Gorsuch wrote in an eight-page statement Thursday that accompanied an expected Supreme Court order formally dismissing a case involving the use of the Title 42 policy to prevent illegal immigrants from staying in the United States.
President Joe Biden finally got his way when the policy ended last week.
From the start of his Supreme Court tenure in 2017, Gorsuch, a Colorado native who loves to ski and bicycle, has been more willing than most justices to part company with his colleagues, both left and right.
He has mainly voted with the other conservatives in his six years as a justice, joining the majority that overturned Roe v. Wade and expanded gun rights last year.
Do you agree with Justice Gorsuch?
But Gorsuch has charted a different course on some issues, writing the court’s 2020 opinion that extended federal protections against workplace discrimination to LGBT people.
When the COVID-19 omicron variant surged in late 2021 and early 2022, he was the lone justice to appear in the courtroom unmasked.
The overreaching actions Gorsuch criticized were first announced in the early days of the pandemic, when Trump was president, and were instituted at all levels of government.
He has written before in individual cases that came to the court during the pandemic, sometimes dissenting from orders that left restrictions in place.
Gorsuch and five other conservatives in the majority voted to end the eviction moratorium and blocked a Biden administration plan to require workers at larger companies to be vaccinated or wear a mask and submit to regular testing.
Once Amy Coney Barrett joined the court after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the justices voted to end restrictions on religious services in some areas.
By a 5-4 vote from which Gorsuch and three conservative colleagues dissented, the court allowed the Biden administration to require many health care workers to be vaccinated.
On Thursday, however, Gorsuch gathered his complaints in one place, writing about lessons he hoped might be learned from the past three years.
“One lesson might be this: Fear and the desire for safety are powerful forces. They can lead to a clamor for action — almost any action — as long as someone does something to address a perceived threat. A leader or an expert who claims he can fix everything, if only we do exactly as he says, can prove an irresistible force,” he wrote.
Another possible lesson, he wrote: “The concentration of power in the hands of so few may be efficient and sometimes popular. But it does not tend toward sound government.”
In the final paragraph of his statement, Gorsuch acknowledged that emergency orders sometimes are sometimes necessary.
“But if emergency decrees promise to solve some problems, they threaten to generate others,” he wrote.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.