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SJC rules Baker’s emergency virus orders are justified

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker’s litany of executive orders responding to the COVID-19 pandemic was legally justified and did not violate constitutional rights, the state’s highest court ruled Thursday.

Six months after the New Civil Liberties Alliance sued Massachusetts on behalf of business owners and religious institutions, the Supreme Judicial Court upheld the Baker administration’s emergency actions, concluding that the governor was within his rights to order widespread closures.

“The emergency orders do not unconstitutionally burden the plaintiffs’ right to free assembly because reducing the dangers of COVID-19 is a significant government interest, and because the emergency orders are content neutral and narrowly tailored, and they leave open alternative channels of communication,” justices wrote in their decision.

The decision prevents a forced dramatic shift in how Massachusetts leaders approach the public health emergency amid rapid transmission of the highly infectious virus and dwindling hospital capacity.


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