Court Appointments and the Governor’s Power

Rhode Islanders should find two bits of news from yesterday unsettling.  Even those who support the Democrats, Gina Raimondo, and the lockdown strategy of pandemic control should pause and make note of where these trends point.

The first is Governor Raimondo’s interview with WPRI, yesterday, headlined, “It would be hard not to keep RI in ‘some kind of a pause,’ Raimondo says.”  It’s beginning to feel sinister, watching politicians and journalists speaking through their masks even though they’re surely a dozen feet apart or more.  Worse, however, is the psychology apparent behind the governor’s words:

“We have 900 beds in the field hospitals, but we don’t have the staff, which is why I keep begging and pleading with Rhode Islanders,” she said. …

She said Rhode Islanders who are “choosing to break the rules” are costing people’s lives.

“There’s a lot of fatigue,” Raimondo said. “At this point, I could say whatever I want, but if people don’t follow the rules, then it’s not going to help.”

“Please Rhode Island, hang in there and follow the rules,” she continued. “We are in a very dangerous spot right now and if you could just rein it in and follow the rules over the next few weeks, it will save lives and make a difference.” …

“It’s my hope that I can get a handle on it and reduce our test positivity,” she said

Be sure to read the whole thing for the full effect of Raimondo’s threats, but the quotation above captures the part relevant for this post.  Notice this:  The problem is all you, you, you.  when it comes to Rhode Island’s bad results, it’s your fault people are dying.  You and your selfish attempts to salvage some kind of a life under her restrictions are killing people.

And it must be you, because other places where the restrictions aren’t as bad are doing much better than Rhode Island. Certainly, it can’t be her. She’s just having to govern a terrible people, and if not for her restrictions, things would be much worse, because you’re just that bad.

But when it comes to any prospective improvement, it’s her, her, her.  “It’s my hope that I can get a handle on it.”

One wonders whether it’s even entered her mind that the reality might be the reverse.  Maybe she’s the one failing.  Maybe despite destroying our economy, her policies haven’t kept us from having the highest infection rate in the world.  Maybe there was a different approach available.

The second terrifying news punch comes from Providence Business News (emphasis added):

R.I. Superior Court Judge Melissa A. Long on Friday granted the R.I. Department of Health a temporary restraining order against Seventh Maxx Warren LLC and Fourth Maxx Lincoln LLC, the owning entities of Maxx Fitness Clubzz in Warren and Lincoln, respectively, and the gyms must close during the two-week economic “pause” that took effect Nov. 30.

In summary, the governor has given herself power to close businesses and impose $500-per-day fines.  Citizens’ defense against this sort of overreach is supposed to be the courts, but here comes a Superior Court judge affirming her move.  Well, that puts an end to it, no?

Well, in true Rhode Island fashion, there’s more to the story (emphasis added):

For the Supreme Court, Raimondo made two nominations, both women: Superior Court Associate Justice Melissa Long and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Erin Lynch Prata, D-Warwick. They would replace Justice Gilbert Indeglia, who retired earlier this year, and Justice Francis Flaherty, who is also retiring.

Keeping in mind that these two appointments are only one person away from a majority of Supreme Court justices in our state, consider their circumstances.  On Erin Lynch Prata’s behalf, in June, the Rhode Island Ethics Commission (currently with seven of eight active members appointed by Raimondo) waived away a revolving door provision in the Code of Ethics, against the suggestion of the commission’s own legal staff, and despite clearly contradictory language in the code.  Clearly politics and insider conversations are the real law in the Ocean State, not any pesky written rules.

Now, Long has received the nod for elevation just after giving the governor’s assumption of dictatorial powers her blessing with a smash of her gavel.  The law simply doesn’t matter, and you, dear residents, taxpayers, and voters, have no recourse.

Even if Gina Raimondo or some future governor relinquishes this power to control the minute details of our lives, that will merely be a surface resumption of our civil rights.  The rule of law is not merely civilians’ following the laws, it is also — arguably more importantly — powerful government officials’ acknowledging that power resides not in them, but in the written rules under which we’ve agreed to live.

Raimondo wants you to follow rules that she, alone, has developed and proclaimed.  Whatever their thoughts about the coronavirus, Rhode Islanders should insist that she must follow the rules that our representative democracy purports to impose.

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