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In an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order last week calling for visitors from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days. He then expanded it to include visitors from Louisiana.
But when Rhode Island issued a similar executive order against traveling New Yorkers, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to sue, saying it was illegal. Cuomo said he would look in to what Florida was doing, according to Politico.
Legal experts in the state say the issue isn’t clear-cut. Michael Wolf, a University of Florida law professor and scholar in local government, said DeSantis could argue he used police powers to ensure the welfare of state residents, which is outlined in the constitution. However, Cuomo could argue the order is discriminatory to residents of other states and forbidden by the constitution.
Wolf said if there was a question of who was in the right, it’d be up to a court. He said there isn’t stronger precedent for one argument over another.
“This is a classic confrontation between two provisions of the constitution,” Wolf said. “I find it naive for people to assert that they know how the court is going to act in a certain circumstance when there are good arguments on both sides.”
Michael Morley, an Florida State University law professor with expertise in constitutional law, said the tradition of issuing quarantines to stop the spread of disease goes back to the earliest days of the country.
He said decisions depend on facts at the time, and the unprecedented threat of coronavirus would make it difficult to argue that what the governor did was beyond his powers.
He said the fact that there is a state of emergency would also give DeSantis more discretion in using his powers to make wide-reaching decisions.
“I think courts will tend, in emergency situations, to give the benefit of the doubt to the government, to give the benefit of the doubt to public health officials,” he said.
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