Alito: COVID rules 'previously unimaginable'

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Thursday sounded an alarm about restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying they shouldn't become a "recurring feature after the pandemic has passed." (Nov. 13)

Video Transcript

SAMUEL ALITO: The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty. Now, notice what I am not saying or even implying. I am not diminishing the severity of the virus as threat to public health. And putting aside what I will say shortly about a few Supreme Court cases, I'm not saying anything about the legality of COVID restrictions, nor am I saying anything about whether any of these restrictions represent good public policy. I'm a judge, not a policymaker.

All that I'm saying is this, and I think it is an indisputable statement of fact, we have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive, and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020. Laws giving an official so much discretion can, of course, be abused. And whatever one may think about the COVID restrictions, we surely don't want them to become a recurring feature after the pandemic has passed.

Over the summer, the Supreme Court received two applications to stay COVID restrictions that blatantly discriminated against houses of worship, one from California and one from Nevada. In both cases, the Court allowed the discrimination to stand. The only justification given was that we should defer to the judgment of the governors because they have the responsibility to safeguard the public health.