As mentioned in our previous post, the legality of state Governors’ emergency powers have come under scrutiny during the pandemic. Michigan’s Supreme Court, for example, recently struck down Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers. The Hawaii Circuit Court, however, recently dismissed a legal challenge to Hawaii Governor David Ige’s emergency powers. In response to the victory, Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors stated “[t]his decision sends an important message at an important time—the Governor’s emergency proclamations are lawful. By continuing to follow these rules, all residents and visitors protect each other and promote public health during this pandemic crisis.”

The lawsuit alleged that Governor Ige’s powers were time-limited, lapsing after the initial 60-day period following the declared state of emergency. Plaintiffs argued that the Governor’s supplemental emergency proclamations were facially invalid, and invalid as applied to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs sought an order permanently enjoining Governor Ige and Hawaii Mayor Harry Kim from issuing further executive orders, or enforcing existing orders. The State argued, however, that no language prohibits supplementary or additional emergency proclamations from being issued, and that HRS Section 127A provides that the Governor or Mayor shall be the “sole judge of the existence of the danger, threat, or circumstances giving rise to a declaration of a state of emergency[.]” HSR § 127A-14(c).

The court agreed with the State, finding that “the use of supplementary proclamations is lawful” and that the purpose of Hawaii’s emergency powers statute “is to confer comprehensive powers to protect the public and save lives.” However, the court acknowledged that the Governor’s powers are not without limit. The court held that “[t]o support each successive emergency proclamation, the Governor must identify the existence of the danger, threat, or circumstances giving rise to a declaration of a state of emergency. When the facts on the ground no longer justify such a determination, the Governor’s emergency powers will cease.” Plaintiffs did not challenge the existence or impact of the pandemic within Hawaii.

Had the Circuit Court found the Governor’s supplemental emergency declarations unlawful as Plaintiffs argued, Hawaii’s price gouging statute may have also been declared unlawfully in effect. Hawaii’s price gouging law, which is triggered upon the governor or mayor declaring a state of emergency prohibits “any increase in the selling price of any commodity, whether at the retail or wholesale level, in the area that is the subject of the proclamation or the severe weather warning.” Hawaii Rev. Stat. §127A-30.

As previously mentioned, the limits of emergency powers have become a hot topic during the pandemic. Businesses need to stay current with respect to changes that may result from the coming potential wave of orders being challenged and rescinded.

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Visit Proskauer on Price Gouging for antitrust insights on COVID-19.

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Proskauer’s cross-disciplinary, cross-jurisdictional Coronavirus Response Team is focused on supporting and addressing client concerns. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Center for guidance on risk management measures, practical steps businesses can take and resources to help manage ongoing operations.

Photo of Christopher E. Ondeck Christopher E. Ondeck

Chris Ondeck is co-chair of the Firm’s nationwide Antitrust Group. He represents clients in civil and criminal antitrust litigation, defending mergers and acquisitions before the U.S. antitrust agencies, defending companies involved in government investigations, and providing antitrust counseling.

Chris has handled antitrust matters…

Chris Ondeck is co-chair of the Firm’s nationwide Antitrust Group. He represents clients in civil and criminal antitrust litigation, defending mergers and acquisitions before the U.S. antitrust agencies, defending companies involved in government investigations, and providing antitrust counseling.

Chris has handled antitrust matters for clients in a number of industries, including advertising, aerospace, alcoholic beverages, appliances, building materials, consumer products, defense, franchise, medical devices, metals, mining, natural resources, oil and gas, packaging, pharmaceuticals, software and telecommunications. He also has developed substantial experience advising clients regarding the application of the antitrust laws to the pharmaceutical industry, the agriculture industry, trade associations and the energy industry.

Photo of John R. Ingrassia John R. Ingrassia

John is a partner at the Firm, advising on the full range of foreign investment and antitrust matters across industries, including chemicals, pharmaceutical, medical devices, telecommunications, financial services consumer goods and health care. He is the first call clients make in matters relating…

John is a partner at the Firm, advising on the full range of foreign investment and antitrust matters across industries, including chemicals, pharmaceutical, medical devices, telecommunications, financial services consumer goods and health care. He is the first call clients make in matters relating to competition and antitrust, CFIUS or foreign investment issues.

For more than 25 years, John has counselled businesses facing the most challenging antitrust issues and helped them stay out of the crosshairs — whether its distribution, pricing, channel management, mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, or price gouging compliance.

John’s practice focuses on the analysis and resolution of CFIUS and antitrust issues related to mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures, and the analysis and assessment of pre-merger CFIUS and HSR notification requirements. He advises clients on issues related to CFIUS national security reviews, and on CFIUS submissions when non-U.S. buyers seek to acquire U.S. businesses that have national security sensitivities.  He also regularly advises clients on international antitrust issues arising in proposed acquisitions and joint ventures, including reportability under the EC Merger Regulation and numerous other foreign merger control regimes.

His knowledge, reputation and extensive experience with the legal, practical, and technical requirements of merger clearance make him a recognized authority on Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust merger review. John is regularly invited to participate in Federal Trade Commission and bar association meetings and takes on the issues of the day.

Photo of Kelly Landers Hawthorne Kelly Landers Hawthorne

Kelly Landers Hawthorne is an associate in the Litigation Department.

While at Columbia, she served as an articles editor of the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts and was involved with the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic.  She also worked as…

Kelly Landers Hawthorne is an associate in the Litigation Department.

While at Columbia, she served as an articles editor of the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts and was involved with the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic.  She also worked as a judicial intern for the Honorable Sandra Townes of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Kelly is a Teach For America alumnus and taught middle school special education and math in Washington, D.C. prior to law school.