Rhode Island Governor Emergency Powers

Legal Paper: Governor’s Emergency Powers are Not Unlimited and Unchecked

Legal Limits on Emergency Executive Powers in Rhode Island General Assembly Designed to be a Check

Providence, RI – The General Assembly has the absolute authority to end a declared state of emergency, especially when the Governor may not be acting with “restraint and moderation and with strict regard to the rights of the people.” This according to a legal analysis released today by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (Center).

The six-page analysis, conducted by the new Flanders Legal Center for Freedom, an initiative of the Center, takes a close look at the Rhode Island General Laws that vest emergency powers with the Governor. In examining the statutes under RI General Laws § 30-15, those powers are neither unlimited, unchecked, nor intended to be exercised with unbridled discretion. 

Important legal questions are raised in the analysis, as to whether or not the Governor has exceeded her legal authority in issuing executive orders and other edicts:

  • Did the Governor exceed clear time limitations when she effectively shut down mid-to-large sized summer events and activities?
  • Did the Governor illegally reschedule the June Presidential Primary, with arbitrarily imposed new voting and voter-ID rules?
  • Did the Governor infringe on religious rights by limiting church crowds, while allowing larger gatherings in other, secular settings?
  • Do the Governor’s arbitrary limitations on the number of people who are permitted to peaceably assemble violate our First Amendment rights?

“It is vital that a balance of power be maintained and that the General Assembly seriously consider its important role,” advised Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Many Rhode Islanders feel that the Governor prematurely shut-down our summer fun. She may also have done so illegally. The General Assembly can be heroes and give us our summer back.”

This legal analysis is the first publication of the Flanders Legal Center for Freedom, which is led by Robert Flanders, a board member of the Center, a practicing attorney, and former Associate Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Operating under the auspices of the Center, the nonpartisan Flanders Legal Center expects to provide ongoing legal commentary, submit friend of the court briefs, and potentially engage in select litigation cases.

The media is invited to contact the Center to arrange for interviews with former Judge Flanders.

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