Cuomo Attacks Supreme Court, but Virus Ruling Is Warning to Governors

In Judiciary and Courts, States On
- Updated

ALBANY, N.Y. — As the coronavirus pandemic has deepened and darkened in recent months, the nation’s governors have taken increasingly aggressive steps to curb the current surge of infections, with renewed and expanded restrictions reaching into people’s homes, businesses, schools and places of worship.

Many of these rules, often enacted by Democratic officials and enforced through curfews, closures and capacity limits, have been resisted by some members of the public, but largely upheld by the courts.

Late Wednesday night, though, the U.S. Supreme Court forcefully entered the arena, signaling that it was willing to impose new constraints on executive and emergency orders during the pandemic, at least where constitutional rights are affected.

In a 5-4 decision, the court struck down an order by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that had restricted the size of religious gatherings in certain areas of New York where infection rates were climbing. The governor had imposed 10- and 25-person capacity limits on churches and other houses of worship in those areas.

The decision seemed to signal that some governmental efforts to stem the pandemic had overreached, impinging on protected freedoms in the name of public health. If unconstrained religious observance and public safety were sometimes at odds, as the governor and other public officials maintained, the court ruled that religious freedom should win out.

Mr. Cuomo accused the court of partisanship, suggesting the ruling reflected the influence of the three conservative justices who have been nominated by President Trump in the past four years.

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