Last month Gov. Newsom stated the continued spread of COVID-19 in California could initiate the need to impose martial law; “We have the ability to do martial law … if we feel the necessity,” he announced. However, even though health care officials and local authorities have taken extraordinary steps to enforce quarantines, lockdowns, closing down the so called “non essential” business and essentially shutting down the economy. It seems very draconian to suggest the state ability to impose martial law, which in the U.S has only been imposed once at the national level during the Civil War and once at a regional level during World War II.
Martial law is an extreme and rare measure used to control society during war or periods of civil unrest or chaos. According to the Supreme Court, the term martial law carries no precise meaning (Duncan v. Kahanamoku, 327 U.S. 304, 66 S. Ct. 606, 90 L. Ed. 688 ).
The actions taken so far to stop the spread of the virus are referred to what is “considered” the general power of the states to regulate the health, safety and morals of their citizens. However, it’s interesting to note that the power of states to vaccinate individuals against their wills has even been part of our U.S history. As well as the deployment of the National Guard or other troops under that scenario.
As politicians never let a “good crisis go too waste,” we may start to wonder whether our state government will seize this opportunity to take away more of our constitutional liberties.