January 23, 2021
While COVID-19 curfews and closures may be adopted with good intentions, these government efforts to stop the spread of COVID have often backfired. And sometimes, these efforts are even unlawful.
Earlier this week, a Pima County Superior Court judge ruled that the county’s 10pm to 5am curfew violates state law and cannot be enforced. The lawsuit—brought by a group of business owners and supported by an amicus brief from the Goldwater Institute—argued that the county’s order, forcing all people to stay out of public places during those hours, violates state law as well as the executive order issued by Governor Doug Ducey in May. As Goldwater Vice President for Litigation Timothy Sandefur told Tucson’s KGUN 9 this week, “The county does have authority to impose curfews in certain emergency situations there, but Arizona law only allows counties to impose emergency curfews to prevent violence or breaches of the peace, and it doesn’t allow curfews, in the case of a pandemic.”
And in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently did an about-face on the question of restaurant closures in the Windy City. Now, she’s calling on the state to reopen restaurants and bars “as quickly as possible.” Her reason? People are getting together anyway, and since the government can’t effectively regulate what happens behind closed doors, it’s safer to let them gather in the open.
Sandefur writes at In Defense of Liberty, “mandates and compulsory curfews increase the likelihood of confrontations between law enforcement and citizens—confrontations that can turn violent, or result in people being taken to jail, where their exposure to COVID-19 is probably higher.” And as the Chicago story shows, “curfews are more likely to encourage people to congregate in secret, in confined places where there is a greater risk of infection, rather than in relatively safer outdoor business places.”
Private actors are much better at dealing with and adjusting to the realities of COVID than are government central planners. And that’s why Goldwater is standing up to government overreach where it exists across the country.
Across the country, it’s legal for government to take a person’s property away, keep it, and auction it off, even if they haven’t done anything wrong. It’s truly astonishing—even for those familiar with the law: Last week, the South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments in an important case challenging that state’s troubled and controversial civil asset forfeiture law—arguments that at times became heated when some of the justices expressed shock at the injustice of these policies in action.
At In Defense of Liberty, Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Stephen Silverman discusses how these laws are unconstitutional and un-American—and how Goldwater is working to end these kinds of laws around the country. For example, last year, Tucson handyman Kevin McBride’s Jeep was confiscated as evidence of a $25 crime that police said Kevin’s girlfriend committed—the alleged sale of three grams of marijuana. The Goldwater Institute stepped in and threatened to sue the government, but before we even had to step foot in court, the government gave the Jeep back.
In recent years, there’s been a growing trend of state and local governments forcing nonprofit groups to turn sensitive, personal information about their donors over to the government. After the nonprofit Rio Grande Foundation ran a campaign encouraging Santa Fe voters to reject a ballot measure that would have imposed a two-cent tax on sugared sodas, the government came calling, demanding that the Foundation reveal its donors, even those who gave as little as one penny.
Represented by Goldwater Institute lawyers, the Foundation filed a free speech lawsuit, and on Thursday, the Institute appeared before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to stand up for the First Amendment rights of the Rio Grande Foundation and its donors. You can listen to the full oral argument here.
This hearing came at a time of increasing nationwide efforts to harass and intimidate people simply for supporting causes they believe in. The Supreme Court has announced it will address donor privacy concerns in two related cases later this year. Read more about the Goldwater/Rio Grande lawsuit here.
It seems hard to believe: Government employees are getting paid not to do the job they were hired to do, but to work full-time for private labor unions, all on taxpayers’ dime. But not only is it happening—it’s incredibly common in cities and school districts across the country.
Please join us this Thursday (January 28) from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Arizona Time (1 – 2 p.m. EST), for a webinar conversation that will lay bare the truth about the unfair and unconstitutional practice known as release time—and what can be done about it. This special event will feature Goldwater Institute Director of National Litigation Jon Riches and Goldwater Institute National Investigative Journalist Mark Flatten, and it will be hosted by Goldwater Director of Communications Mike Brownfield.
Remembering an Institute Founder & Former Chairman
The Goldwater Institute offers our deepest condolences to the family of Tracy R. Thomas Sr., an original founder of the Institute and a former chairman of our Board of Directors, who passed away on December 31, 2020. An Arizona entrepreneur and philanthropist, Tracy Thomas was best known for his civic leadership in economic development of the Phoenix metro area. He also supported several charitable causes in El Salvador, for which he received the title of honorable consul. Mr. Thomas is survived by his wife, Martha, of Paradise Valley, Arizona, four children, and two brothers.