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Should COVID-19 regulations be enforced on all, equally?

By FRANK J. LABUDA
Posted 7/29/20

Law enforcement and prosecution are part of the Executive Branch of government. The Executive Branch, federal and state, is responsible to enforce the law. Law may consist of legislative enactments, …

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My View

Should COVID-19 regulations be enforced on all, equally?

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Law enforcement and prosecution are part of the Executive Branch of government. The Executive Branch, federal and state, is responsible to enforce the law. Law may consist of legislative enactments, executive and administrative orders or regulations duly enacted.

A law enforcement officer, i.e. the police, as well as prosecutors and district attorneys take an oath to enforce the law without fear or favor. A district attorney’s oath and duty requires them to enforce all of the laws and regulations whether they like them or not, or whether they are politically expedient. Police officers are sworn to protect and serve the people. They cannot be the arbitrator of what laws they want to enforce, especially when the issue concerns life and death. People do die from COVID-19, and people do spread the virus. This is not an issue of who cannot sell ice-cream this summer.

We are a nation of law, and when we as citizens disagree with the law, we have options: break the law or go to court and/or the legislature to change the law. As a sworn officer of the law, we give up the option to simply break or ignore the law. As a lawyer, which is what a prosecutor or DA is, we have an obligation in a court of law to challenge those laws we believe are unconstitutional and contrary to the good of the people. To do otherwise would create anarchy and pose a grave threat to the law and order that we are sworn to uphold.

I, as a citizen, have many concerns about the way in which the COVID-19 regulations are being enforced by the governor and certain mayors. Why wasn’t social distancing enforced against protesters, rioters and looters? Why can one go to a liquor store and Home Depot but not to church? Why can you go to Shoprite or a big-box store, but not a corner grocery store? Why can’t my grandchildren go to an overnight summer camp, yet are free to roam in the park or go to day camp only? Does COVID-19 only come out at night?

The list of inconsistencies in this governor’s discretionary executive orders is bottomless and unfathomable. I agree that many of these executive orders make no sense and are blatantly arbitrary and capricious.

The medical science behind COVID-19 seems to be at odds with the political science behind the governor’s executive orders. Also, due process and equal treatment under the law seem to be at odds with the governor’s executive orders. All of these issues militate for legal action in our courts or prompt legislative action. We have a legal process so let’s use it to really protect the people whom we are sworn to protect.

These are dangerous and trying times, at which public safety is at stake, and a time in which our American rule of law must prevail. So those charged with enforcing the law ought to respect this process and equally apply the law until it is duly changed.

The Honorable Frank J. LaBuda is a retired judge from the Sullivan County Court and the former Chief Assistant District Attorney of Sullivan County. He recently won the Republican nomination in the race for Sullivan County’s District Attorney.

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