Skip to Content

NCLA Petitions Supreme Court to Hear Case on Gov. Baker’s Pandemic Orders Barring Free Assembly

Washington, D.C., May 10, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Despite the greatly improved disease and risk environment since the COVID-19 national emergency was declared fourteen months ago, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s state of emergency remains in effect today. This afternoon the New Civil Liberties Alliance filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in Dawn Desrosiers, et al. v. Governor Charles D. Baker, asking the Justices to review the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s December 2020 ruling that decided the Governor’s restrictions are reasonable and do not violate the plaintiffs’ federal constitutional rights.

NCLA, a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group, challenged Governor Baker’s Civil Defense State of Emergency declaration and his ensuing emergency orders last year in Massachusetts’s highest court. That court mistakenly held that the First Amendment freedom of assembly claims should be scrutinized under the relaxed standard applicable to time, place, and manner restrictions. It further erred by holding that the restrictions could pass muster under the Due Process Clause so long as they were reasonably related to a valid state interest. Closer scrutiny than that is warranted when the restrictions on personal liberty are so extreme and have been imposed by order of a single executive-branch official rather than a legislature.

NCLA represents local entrepreneurs, church pastors, and a private school headmaster, who are opposed to the Commonwealth’s arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on their rights to peaceably assemble and to receive due process. Baker has issued 67 executive orders related to the pandemic, some 40 of which implicate the assembly or due process rights of NCLA’s clients.

Governor Baker seized unprecedented executive and legislative authority when he issued his Emergency Declaration. Under the state of emergency, the Governor arbitrarily declares—without a hearing or other form of due process—which “essential” businesses may remain open and which “non-essential” businesses must close. Most of Baker’s orders from the last year have curtailed freedoms by banning economic, religious, educational, and cultural assembly in some form or fashion. But a health crisis does not empower the Governor to disregard the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Petitioners assert that the severe restrictions on their civil liberties violate their due process rights. Governor Baker’s capacity limitations, curfews, and other restrictions on gatherings in private homes underscore the need for judicial oversight of executive decrees, even during a pandemic. The Supreme Court has rarely seen such a brazen invasion of the sanctity of private homes and interference with personal relationships.

NCLA hopes the Supreme Court will take up this case because it presents a unique opportunity to remind state and federal courts that constitutional rights like the freedom peaceably to assemble remain relevant in times of crisis. Review is warranted to provide lower courts with much-needed direction regarding the proper standards for reviewing constitutional challenges to severe restrictions on civil liberties.

NCLA released the following statement:

“If the Governor can really choose which assemblies to ban as long as his stated purpose is neutral, and if he can choose which jobs or activities to ban just because it has a reasonable relationship to a government interest, no civil liberties are safe in this pandemic or the next. The Constitution does not lose its vitality just because there is a crisis; in fact, that’s when we need it most. The Supreme Court should review the Desrosiers decision and reaffirm that a crisis cannot justify abandoning civil liberties or constitutional principles.” 
Michael P. DeGrandis, Senior Litigation Counsel, NCLA

For more information visit the case page here.


NCLA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group founded by prominent legal scholar Philip Hamburger to protect constitutional freedoms from violations by the Administrative State. NCLA’s public-interest litigation and other pro bono advocacy strive to tame the unlawful power of state and federal agencies and to foster a new civil liberties movement that will help restore Americans’ fundamental rights.


Judy Pino
New Civil Liberties Alliance

Transparency is how we protect the integrity of our work and keep empowering investors to achieve their goals and dreams. And we have unwavering standards for how we keep that integrity intact, from our research and data to our policies on content and your personal data.

We’d like to share more about how we work and what drives our day-to-day business.

We sell different types of products and services to both investment professionals and individual investors. These products and services are usually sold through license agreements or subscriptions. Our investment management business generates asset-based fees, which are calculated as a percentage of assets under management. We also sell both admissions and sponsorship packages for our investment conferences and advertising on our websites and newsletters.

How we use your information depends on the product and service that you use and your relationship with us. We may use it to:

  • Verify your identity, personalize the content you receive, or create and administer your account.
  • Provide specific products and services to you, such as portfolio management or data aggregation.
  • Develop and improve features of our offerings.
  • Gear advertisements and other marketing efforts towards your interests.

To learn more about how we handle and protect your data, visit our privacy center.

Maintaining independence and editorial freedom is essential to our mission of empowering investor success. We provide a platform for our authors to report on investments fairly, accurately, and from the investor’s point of view. We also respect individual opinions––they represent the unvarnished thinking of our people and exacting analysis of our research processes. Our authors can publish views that we may or may not agree with, but they show their work, distinguish facts from opinions, and make sure their analysis is clear and in no way misleading or deceptive.

To further protect the integrity of our editorial content, we keep a strict separation between our sales teams and authors to remove any pressure or influence on our analyses and research.

Read our editorial policy to learn more about our process.