Charlie Buttrey

March 22, 2020

I blogged yesterday about an ill-fated lawsuit against the State of New Hampshire brought by three people challenging the Governor’s recent emergency executive order, prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people, and closing bars and restaurants except for take-out orders.

It’s not the first time that public health considerations have required such drastic measures. According to this article in The Atlantic, similar restrictions were imposed during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 (which killed, among others, my otherwise healthy thirty-something great-grandfather, who left behind a widow and three young children).

And it’s not the first time that people have turned to the courts to challenges such restrictions.

In 1918, the school board in Globe, Arizona went to court to challenge a board of health order closing “each and every and all theaters, motion picture shows, banks, business houses, pool halls, shooting galleries, skating rinks, dances, lodges, schools, churches and all places of amusement and entertainment” in the city, and making it unlawful for two or more people to congregate in a public place. The Arizona Supreme Court, writing in 1919, had no problem upholding the order. By then, the epidemic was beginning to wind down, assisted in no small measure by large-scale quarantines.

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