The seemingly omnipresent storm clouds hanging over the Constitution often make it hard to find a silver lining. Every day, the front page of The Drudge Report is littered with stories of government assaults on our civil liberties -- from local government officials all the way up to the Oval Office. Even heroic actions, such as Rand Paul’s recent filibuster in opposition to the unchecked use of drones on U.S. soil, are met by scornful catcalls from Grumpy Old Guard politicians who long ago seemed to have lost even the most basic understanding of our Bill of Rights.
But, the past several days actually have been a good week for freedom in the courts, as three decisions came back -- all on the side of Liberty.
Nanny Bloomberg Slapped Down
As everyone knows, and as I wrote back in January, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been on a moral crusade against everything from trans-fats and salt to soft drinks and prescription drug abuse. In Hizzoner’s bullying attempts to rid his city of what he considers vices, Bloomberg has employed the full power of his municipal government to strong-arm city businesses to comply with his health edicts.
Last week, Bloomberg’s ban on sugary drinks served in bottles, cups or pitchers larger than 16-ounces was set to take affect. Restaurant owners, movie theaters, and other business establishments faced significant compliance costs and lost revenue because of the far-reaching ban, and a failure to comply would have carried fines up to $200.
On the day the ban was to begin, however, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling stopped Bloomberg’s plan dead in its tracks, calling the soda ban “arbitrary and capricious.” Tingling also took issue with the unprecedented legislative reach of the New York City Board of Health -- an unelected body of bureaucrats serving at the pleasure of the Mayor.
Tingling said the legal basis for the Health Board’s self-concocted legislative power, “would leave its authority to define, create, mandate and enforce limited only by its own imagination,” adding it “would not only violate the separation of powers doctrine, it would eviscerate it.” Such an attack on check and balances “has the potential to be more troubling than sugar sweetened beverages,” Tingling concluded.