COVID-19 response is “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in peacetime history”: says Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch

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As COVID-19 expanded across the United States in 2020, Title 42, a strict immigration law permitting the swift expulsion of asylum seekers and other migrants, was among the wide-ranging tries to protect the country from the epidemic.

The policy, which was first enacted by the Trump administration and later expanded by President Joe Biden, expires last month. Last Monday, the United States Supreme Court rejected a bid by Republican-led states to keep it in place.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch didn’t mince words in an eight-page statement in response to the case. He referred to the government’s response to the COVID-19 incident as “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country.”

“Executive officials across the country issued emergency decrees on a breathtaking scale. Governors and local leaders imposed lockdown orders forcing people to remain in their homes. They shuttered businesses and schools, public and private,” Gorsuch wrote in the statement, released Thursday.

According to the Associated Press, Gorsuch has long been an opponent of strict COVID-19 restrictions. He was the lone Justice who declined to wear a mask in January 2022, requiring Justice Sonia Sotomayor to participate in oral arguments digitally. Sotomayor has diabetes and is more prone to serious diseases from COVID-19.

In his comments on Thursday, Gorsuch cautioned that the “concentration of power in the hands of so few” may not end in “sound government.”

“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.

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