Ohio Supreme Courts rejects effort to block pandemic protections by lawmakers
The Ohio Supreme Court rejected an effort using a 2011 amendment to the Ohio Constitution Wednesday that sought to block the state from enacting or enforcing COVID-19 related measures, including wearing masks, having temperatures taken, vaccinations, contact tracing and being part of any information collected by health care systems.
A group of 10 Ohioans claimed that since March 2020, they have been subjected to constitutional violations by the state.
In the ruling, the Court stated it has no jurisdiction "to order the General Assembly to enact a specific piece of legislation," nor can it "preemptively order the General Assembly not to enact legislation."
The case asked the Court to require the Ohio legislature to limit the authority of the state's attorney general to enforce health-related actions. In the opinion issued by the Court, it stated that the legislature may have the power to pass laws that restrain the attorney general's actions, but the Court has no authority to order lawmakers to direct how the attorney general would perform the duties of the job.
According to the news release, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justices Patrick F. Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, and Melody Stewart joined the opinion. Justice Jennifer Brunner concurred in judgment only. Justice Sharon L. Kennedy concurred in judgment only, writing that she agreed with the denial of the writ because an order would "cross the boundary between judicial and legislative branches," but disagreed that the Court lacks the jurisdiction to consider the request.
The 2011 amendment was based on the debate over a Federal health care insurance system known as the Affordable Care Act. At that time, a citizen's group placed Issue 3 on the Ohio November 2011 ballot to prevent any federal, state, or local mandate to participate in a health care system. Voters approved the amendment, which became Article 1, Section 21 of the Ohio Constitution.
The Court's opinion noted the Ohio Constitution does not have a provision specifying the separation of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. However, the doctrine is "implicitly embedded in the entire framework" of the constitution, the opinion stated.