Members of the Ohio Supreme Court made the correct decision by staying out of what is clearly the legislature’s business.
A lawsuit against the state’s pandemic restrictions argued that the court should require legislators to enforce a portion of the Ohio Constitution that says the state can’t compel individuals to participate in a health care system.
That provision was enacted in regard to the Affordable Care Act. Long before the pandemic.
The theory in the Ohio case was that testing, masking and other restrictions violated that provision.
It’s important to note that the provision isn’t very specific. That’s different from another provision the court recently considered.
The justices unanimously ruled they couldn’t order lawmakers to act, or not to act, on legislation to enforce the health care provision.
That unanimity must have come as some sort of relief.
The members of the Ohio Supreme Court found themselves consumed by the whirlwind of political fervor surrounding the Ohio redistricting process. The seven justices were sharply divided in deciding the redistricting cases. Both the cases on state legislative and congressional redistricting were decided by 4–3 votes. Both ruled that maps submitted by the state redistricting commission did not meet constitutional standards.
The difference between the redistricting issue and the pandemic legislation issues are larger than they might appear.
The court must enforce the Ohio Constitution and can make orders flowing from that document.
But in deciding policy delegated to the legislature or executive branches they must leave matters alone.
The court also can’t order the legislature to do anything. They can invalidate an unconstitutional law once passed and signed into law.
That’s very different from the redistricting decision. The court issued an order requiring the state redistricting commission to create maps that met the requirements of the Ohio Constitution. That’s after they found the submitted maps didn’t meet constitutional requirements. The commission is not the legislature, although it included members of the legislature. That ruling was based on a clear constitutional provision.
The important thing in the pandemic case is that all the members of the court upheld the separation of powers between our executive, legislative and judicial branches.