U.S. District Judge Finds COVID-19 Interstate Highway Travel Ban “Unconstitutional”

May 8th, 2020

Are you concerned that some government actions during COVID-19 may be unconstitutional, i.e., against our basic American freedoms?  Well, you’re not alone.  One federal judge recently found that a governor’s “interstate travel ban” was in fact, unconstitutional.

COVID-19 Government “Executive Orders” – Constitutional? Or Not?

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear issued an executive order banning almost all out-of-state travel by citizens.

Judge Bertelsman said that Bershear’s decision “did not pass constitutional muster” and that the right to travel from one state to another is “firmly embedded” in U.S. jurisprudence. He also states that “the restrictions infringe on the basic right of citizens to engage in interstate travel.”

The Court granted an injunction.

“Freedom of Movement” Is A Fundamental Amercian Right –

Many courts, including on several occasions the United States Supreme Court, have held that the right to freedom of movement, including interstate travel, is such a fundamental American right that it need not be expressly enumerate din the Constitution!

State governors such as the one in Kentucky are essentially trying to circumvent this fundamental right by simply drafting “executive orders.”  These orders, as the name implies, do not require legislative approval.

Moreover, there is certainly some debate as to whether such extreme measures are even effective at combating COVID-19.  Some health experts have stated that this measure are ineffective and “too late, too broad, and a drain on resources.” Health professionals have also suggested that state officials simply evaluate visitors rather than banning travel all-together.

Rhode Island became one of the first states to ban on out-of-state travelers. Governor Gina Raimondo considered blocking all vehicles with New York license plates from entering the state – but New York’s Governor Cuomo threatened a lawsuit if Raimondo implemented the proposal. Instead, Raimondo changed her order, including broadening it to all interstate travel (so as not to discriminate against New York!).

It may be true that during a pandemic like this that individual rights sometimes must give way to public safety.  But time has dragged on and the rationale for the original extreme restrictions on our fundamental rights have subsided.  Perhaps a review of this decision will cause politicians to reconsider many “orders” that have damaged our economy and way of life, at least in Rhode Island.

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