Is coronavirus leading to a constitutional crisis?

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Full-time RVers are struggling with finding a place to stay in this difficult time of pandemic. As state and local authorities shut down RV parks, or limit guests to those who stay under long-term status, the number of full-time RVers could conceivably exceed the available supply of short-term spots. One California RV park owner says the whole matter could end up in court – as a constitutional rights issue.

Michael Newdow, who owns the Aurora RV Park on California’s largest lake, Clear Lake, in Nice, has a tri-fold view on this whole matter. Not only does he own the RV park, he’s also an emergency physician, and an attorney with a focus on constitutional law. Newdow was recently interviewed by Woodall’s Campground Management, and his quotes are from that interview.

The issue of RVers being locked out of RV parks because of the coronavirus pandemic is of great concern to Newdow, both as an RV park owner and as a physician. In a letter to the health authority with oversight of Nice, California’s jurisdiction, he wrote out a reasoned argument as to the need to keep private parks open.

“First of all,” Dr. Newdow articulated, “unlike immobile residences, RVs spend hours in 55-plus mph winds, thus ridding their exteriors of viruses as they are driven from one location to the next. Second, with RVs being only a few hundred square feet in size, owners do not generally have others visiting inside. Thus, any ‘socializing’ is usually entirely outdoors, where (unlike when people meet or greet inside their homes or buildings) viruses – if present – are greatly dispersed, resulting in a very low likelihood of it being transmitted to others. Lastly, owners tend to stay within their own ‘spaces’ at RV parks and they ‘socialize’ merely with hellos or waves to other guests, some twenty or thirty feet away.”

“In view of the foregoing,” Newdow asserts, “RVers are (or should be) permitted to stop at the county’s RV parks, (because) their doing so will not in any significant way endanger Lake County’s permanent residents.”

But as a constitutional lawyer, Newdow digs a bit deeper – it’s the whole business of citizens’ right to travel. Speaking of Gary Pace, the county health officer, the lawyer in Newdow says, “I understand that Pace is only trying to protect the county’s residents, and I applaud his dedication to that goal.” But he adds, “I also recognize that he has been granted broad emergency powers. But those powers are not unlimited, and – especially when fundamental constitutional rights are being infringed upon – he has a duty to narrowly tailor his orders to protect those rights as much as possible. At the very least, he needs to provide some showing that allowing RVers to stay in an RV park – where social distancing is normally practiced and where contacts among guests can readily be limited to the outdoors – increases the risk of viral transmission. I don’t think that showing can be made.”

Fundamental constitutional rights? Apparently the framers of the U.S. Constitution felt so strongly that the right of free travel by citizens was so deeply ingrained in society they didn’t feel a need to spell that right out in great detail, particularly in light that the Constitution’s predecessor, the Articles of Confederation, had made freedom of movement clear. That lack of clear distinction in the Constitution was hammered out by the Supreme Court in 1868 in Crandal v Nevada. In that case, Nevada was hauled into court because it charged a $1 tax on anyone leaving the state with the use of a for-hire company. The Court ruled, in shooting down the tax, that freedom to travel between states was a fundamental right of U.S. citizens.

In this, Dr. Newdow sees the seeds of a constitutional challenge to Lake County, California’s prohibition of RVers being able to check into the private RV park of their choice, and muses that he may be the one to file the challenge. It wouldn’t be a big surprise, because in the past, Newdow has brought cases to court on constitutional issues. An avowed atheist, Newdow once brought suit on behalf of his daughter, suggesting the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance was an unconstitutional bridge between the separation of government and religion. A lower court agreed with Newdow’s view. On appeal, however, the Supreme Court tossed the lower court ruling out. The “Supremes” ruled that Newdow, who was not his daughter’s legal guardian at the time, lacked legal standing to bring the case up.

If Newdow does proceed to take another “at bat” in the constitutional law game remains to be seen. If he does, no doubt RVers – and many others – will be watching with great interest from the stands.

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Donn
3 months ago

Newdow is always making it his business to take on anything good about the USA. I’d enjoy seeing him keep his mouth shut.

rich
3 months ago

You must find a way to mobilize and have conversations in person with one another. The internet can be restricted artificially, personal conversation less likely. Find a way.

Little Kahuna
4 months ago

Newdow is the wrong guy to rally around. He may be right this time but in my mind his past actions disqualify him despite all his fancy credentials. Karma may be a bitch but it does emanate from a higher power.

Roger
4 months ago

I hope he does take it to court, and soon! Right or wrong, it won’t be solved by panicked politicians or social media “experts”. Get it in the courts now and start running it up this wobbling flagpole.

Tom Smithbrother
4 months ago

I totally agree . They have taken this travel restriction way too far . Life and Liberty are being taken away and totally unconstitutional Even the president has stress over and over that he is Asking NOT, NOT, NOT, demanding that people keep social distances

Janelle Sills
4 months ago

That we are even talking about vacation travel “rights” in the middle of this crisis seems appalling to me. Each needless contact between people increases the not insignificant probability of some other human being losing their life. This is a time when we can truly save lives of innocent people and perhaps ourselves by the simple act of not having needless contact. Each sick individual threatens the life of family, heroic healthcare workers, and those with underlying conditions or elderly. I’m one of those people that these so called constitutional rights directly threaten. Frankly, those vacation rights pale in comparison to human life and seem more like reckless disregard for the lives and rights of others.

LiVan_Life
4 months ago
Reply to  Janelle Sills

The majority on the road between RV parks are not those on vacation, but those that live in their RV full time with no home base. Where would you recommend they go when parks are closed?

Mike & Cathi Stark
3 months ago
Reply to  Janelle Sills

My comments are not made lightly, and are intended only to create conversation. My husband and I would be in trouble if either of us got infected. BUT Since we cover up when out in public (once a week or so for shopping) how are we a threat to anyone if we move the RV from point A to point B? I am still sheltering in place (my own HOME). I don’t intend to come running over to someone’s home bringing a new set of germs into their space. If I happen to meet you while walking thru the park, I will keep my distance (I don’t know what you might have that could get me sick). I will have my nose and mouth covered. I will wash my hands frequently. I don’t understand how this applies to your comment “Each needless contact between people increases the not insignificant probability of some other human being losing their life.” There is no contact . . . I am not trying to pick on you or anyone else, I would just like to better understand how my actions could impact anyone except me and my husband. We don’t have parents that we could infect. We won’t be seeing our kids or GKs in the foreseeable future. I just don’t get the reason for closing private RV parks to those who live in their rigs full ltime. I do understand closing public campgrounds because the use of those facilities require more peronnel for maintenance of the public bathrooms and fee stations. I do take the situation seriously and am trying to live my life as safely as possible. But there is a line and this article does a good job of discussing that line. Stay safe and go wash those hands.

Steve S.
4 months ago

Is a private RV park an essential business?
If hotels are essential for short term stays, could RV parks also be considered essential?

This is a matter of should, not could.

While I feel extremely lucky that we are not directly affected by this situation, since we were not on the road when all of this became critical. I cannot help but empathize with those who are affected, especially those who are trying to get home, but are being thwarted at every turn. Worst of all are the full-timers who stay in government campgrounds.

There are several large national RV organizations. Why aren’t any of them willing to stand up for RVers?

How many of us are paying $$ to these organizations?

I suggest that all of us who are paying national RV organizations membership dues, start bringing pressure to these organizations to give us a voice in Washington.

I think that a few thousand membership cancellations would motivate them.

After all, if we can’t use our RVs, why do we need to belong to these organizations?

Just my $.02

Marc Rodstein
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve S.

Those organizations do not represent RVers. They represent themselves and the companies who want to sell to RVers.

Cheryl Bacon
4 months ago

Michael Newdow seems to want to just emphasize Americans right to travel. Even though, he is correct about that. The Constitution is made up of many Amendments. The 10th Amendment which gives States (and their cities and counties) the power to close businesses and restrict movement of people. when it pertains to the health, safety and welfare of it’s citizens. Even though Michael Newdow can cite one Amendment in his case, the State or Federal Constitution judges will be comparing his argument against all the other Amendments concerning his argument. He also should come to a more reasonable solution like Andy Zipser did. We RVers and all Americans need to just take a deep breath and realize many people that have the correct credentials and experienced knowledge are watching everyone in a government power position every move. None of it is a secret and if you pay real close attention you will have seen many examples where an alarm rang and someone’s order was changed rapidly. The reason for this is because we have watch groups protecting the citizens. That not to say we are going to like the orders placed on us, or the places we love but they are also not infringing on our Rights either.

Jeff
4 months ago
Reply to  Cheryl Bacon

Where did you see this 10th amendment that government can close businesses? I am looking for this and can’t find it.

Don
4 months ago
Reply to  Cheryl Bacon

10th. The powers not delegated to the US by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or the people. How does this give States (and their cities and counties) the power to close businesses and restrict movement of people. when it pertains to the health, safety and welfare of it’s citizens.? Can’t follow you line of reason here. Care to explain so that I and many others can learn.

MrDisaster
4 months ago

The “seeds” of an argument. Crandal v. Nevada dealt with a tax, which hindered interstate travel and thus violated the commerce clause. There is no “tax” to hinder movement, but a local jurisdiction ordering the closure of certain facilities. This argument is going to be a huge stretch. The state could argue that occupying RV parks with travelers (no matter how well isolated they were) would place an undo burden on local medical treatment facilities if the traveler got sick (with COVID-19). Several counties along the coast in Oregon and Southern Washington made that argument. The state didn’t impose a “tax” to restrict travel and actually facilitated travel through (but not stopping in) their jurisdiction. Having said that I am at a loss as to an “official” explanation since hotels are still open. It seems a determination made through ignorance rather than arrogance. The RV parks community needs to be making a better argument to the state officials.

Jan Prins
4 months ago

As a Canadian, I think that your government has mismanaged the whole crisis from the begining and has put the general populace at risk.
We took the step of “Locking Down” early and it has paid off.
Forget all of your “Rights” for now.
They won’t mean much when you are dead.

Larry Bolling
4 months ago
Reply to  Jan Prins

I would rather die a free person than live as a slave to the government.

Bill T
4 months ago
Reply to  Jan Prins

I too am Canadian and I agree with personal and public safety measures but I totally agree with Gordon Hamptons comment below. This pandemic is generating too much government overreach and social panic. Pandemics have been around for centuries and will continue to do so. Our way of life and earning potential to provide for our families should not be de-evolved to begging for government handouts which in turn will only cost the taxpayer more money, to pay back government loans, when all this is over and likewise reduce the further earning power of the dollar. The value of our dollar has already dropped to the point where we will soon need a wheel barrow full of it just to by a coffee in Buffalo. When this is over, gas prices will skyrocket the recession will increase and with an almost valueless dollar, we won’t be able to enjoy RV travel, especially visiting our friends to the south, as the cost will be too expensive. Just my $.02.

Sonny
4 months ago

The Globalists are in power and are showing off that power World Wide. Closing down the USA for the Flu proves that. They failed at their total fake Russian Hoax and they failed at their total fake Impeachment debacle. So now they try something totally different to remove the Patriot in the White House and before all the loons go crazy they should be asking why is so much energy being used to remove 1 man from office and the answer is simple – He is not one of them and his agenda is for America and Americans Only. The Alternative Drug Choices that are curing those who have the virus , go against thier plan to vaccinate everyone including your pets. Them RV Parks will remain closed until the curve flat lines

Larry Bolling
4 months ago
Reply to  Sonny

I would rather die free than live as a slave.

TravelingMan
4 months ago

Guy’s and Gals, I sure see a lot of complaining here and most of it well warranted…But I have to ask, how many of you have sent a letter, held a telephone call or visited your Congressmen, Statesmen, City Councils in person? (Not to mention the unrelated School Boards?)

Respectfully, the problem will not be resolved on its own. YOU are a taxpayer. YOU have to take action. YOU vote them in to represent YOU! Unless enough of us voice our concerns to their respective Representatives, THEY will tell YOU what to do!

If you are not sure how to write or place a phone call or how to visit in person, ASK! There are many here that can help you. And here is one good internet article on how to write letters.

https://www.thoughtco.com/write-effective-letters-to-congress-3322301

Representatives receive hundreds of letters every day. Note that is hundreds that represent millions because so few actually write, call or go by in person. One letter, call or visit received by a Representative is equivalent to a large block of Voters.

So, while its OK and human to vent frustrations, channel that frustration by getting in touch with your Representative and let all us know how it goes. You won’t always receive a response. But if you do nothing, you get nothing.

And regarding the CV…I happen to side with the “Stay at Home” group. I get it that you may get kicked out of the park. Traveling transmits germs. You can’t help that. Most of you don’t even know you are a carrier. Symptoms don’t show up for days. You can’t get a random test. But this goes back to the upper paragraphs…And I agree that being holed up in an RV is a million times safer than some rat hotel that doesn’t always do such a great job cleaning. After all, the help is the least paid. You get what you pay for in many cases. Just take a blacklight to the bed and carpet sometime…You’ll see what a great job they do. And people go there to sleep, but sleep is not the only thing if you catch the drift…Our RV is our home. It’s clean with our germs only!

We just need a lock-down for about 2 months to eradicate this virus until/unless a vaccine or cure can be released.

Jeff
4 months ago
Reply to  TravelingMan

I sent out letters to my congressman who represent me in d.c.. I will see if they respond back. Our local congressman here in Wisconsin I sent him two of the same letters. Where are all these jobs in Wisconsin. This was before the virus. He never responded back too me. If people don’t get letters back from there congressmen I can see why they give up.

TravelingMan
4 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Please read the article attached. Not everyone will receive a response. Keep your letter constructive. Not threatening to throw them out of office. Note the issue. Offer suggestions for change or at least why something is not working. Letters are often grouped together. You best chance for a response is to hand write your letter and add that a response is respectfully requested. Don’t be discouraged. Someone has read your letter.

TravelingMan
4 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Thank you for doing your part!

TravelingMan
4 months ago
Reply to  TravelingMan

On this same topic…In addition to writing letters about park closures, consider writing letters about:

1) The National Pharm Stockpile – Demand (politly/politically correct) to replinish and expand capacity. Apparently, it was depleted by previous presidential administrations by 75% and it has never been replenished prior to this pandemic. See this article:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/fact-check-did-obama-administration-164549409.html

2) Demand (politly/politically correct) a law be created that forces Pharma back to US shores for the sake of Nat’l Defense. This creates jobs and provides national security in times of crisis.

3) The same for industrial electronics.

4) The same for the Strateguc Oil Reserve.

How can these essentials be so overlooked?

How about we stop sending our tax dollars to foriegn entities until/unless these few basic needs are restored?

Billy Bob Thornton
4 months ago
Reply to  TravelingMan

Then start paying attention on who the good guys are in Congress.

Gordon Hampton
4 months ago

The issues here are much broader than travel bans and RV Parks. Governors have been and are exercising broad and dictatorial powers under declarations of a state of emergency. Their respective state constitutions allow these actions. That being said, if you carefully examine the numbers for this outbreak, they are still infinitesimally smaller than many, many other pandemics the world has endured WITHOUT the need to exercise such broad, freedom- and economy-destroying powers. What I REALLY take seriously is the economic devastation, the emotional devastation, the cultural devastation and the severe truncation of basic human rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Viruses have always been with us and will always be, and they will always kill many, many people, and frankly our efforts to fight them have not been and are not presently doing very much to change what viruses always do. Something is going to kill everyone of us, but I for one, do not intend to cower in the corner of my basement in abject fear of what that might be. Living is much more than just taking our next breath.

Bill T
4 months ago
Reply to  Gordon Hampton

Well said.

Ann
4 months ago

Yes, full timers need a place to park and STAY. But if you’re still moving from place to place, you’re part of the problem, full time or not, no matter how safe you think you’re being. This is one time when your actions affect everyone, and people need to stop being so damn selfish.

Steve
4 months ago
Reply to  Ann

ANN, How can you say what you just said? Governors will not issue “stay home” orders, People are not following the orders that are out there and not following social distancing, no masks in many places. The hot spots are in high density population areas and caused by people traveling from one hot spot to another high density population area. I am not saying everyone should travel, but traveling in an RV is not the same as walking through a crowded airport and spending 2 or 3 hours in a flying petri-dish. I can drive and stay in a hotel (you read the article) but not stay in a campground in my personal RV. Sounds like the PANIC-demic has gone to the politicians heads (which I think is firmly planted up their backside).

Ralph Williamson
4 months ago

The lack of logic in today’s politicians is amazing. Their policy’s and decisions make no sense most of the time. Unfortunately most of their constituents seem to know no better.

Tony
4 months ago

My wife is a travel nurse and will be realigning in early May. Thousand trails has all ready cancelled our reservations for then. We could definitely “sue” but that does not solve the problem now. We do not feel safe staying in parking lots during these unfamiliar times and I KNOW we will not be staying in a hotel. Most private campgrounds charge some kind of tourist tax or hotel tax or whatever the state calls it. I do not understand why any state would suddenly consider RV parks a small unnecessary business and close them down. At best I think state leadership does not understand RVing and at worst I suspect ulterior motives such as homeless shelters.

Billy Bob Thornton
4 months ago
Reply to  Tony

Your wife sir, got caught up in the stay in place movement. Casuality of this pandemic.

Billy Bob Thornton
4 months ago

Nope. When, in times like these, which really are unprecedented. I don’t ever use that term by the way. The WORLD is being effected. So, all the lawyer mumbo jumbo will work it’s way through the courts. Do we, the people really, have rights, in a time like this. Well, I bet dollars to donuts, we don’t. When chaos is upon us, the authority prevails.

You really want a bromometer on our world society, let’s see what the world does to China. If they let those communist thugs of the hook, this will happen again. Current sources are reporting that this was an engineered virus out of a bio lab in Wuhan. Really, if it’s right, this piddly stuff is nothing. Think about it.

Billy Bob Thornton
4 months ago

Gee, my update was removed, not sure why.

Billy Bob Thornton
3 months ago

Update. Seems Wuhan was working on the virus, and key PhDs have gone missing. Will the WHO be unfunded by the US, to the tune of 400 mil a year. Why not, they c
Were complicit in covering up the outbreak. More on this in future updates.

Captn John
4 months ago

There are a few like me that may not take the entire situation as serious as we should but a much higher number are over reacting. Closing parks is over reacting. Power goes to the head of many and they overstep their authority. Others over react because of fear. Then there are the PC that believe only their way is the best.
No doubt the lawyer is bright but he could be doing better things than trying to change the ways of the country and bringing his daughter into his mess!

Tommy Molnar
4 months ago
Reply to  Captn John

I think in this case, his daughter is “old news” and is only brought up to show that Newdow has filed previous suits.

Ran
4 months ago

I agree with Mike below. Also, whats up with closing RV parks and now at Dockweiler State Beach in So. Ca. and moving a tons of class C motorhomes in there to house the homeless? What’s the difference?! We’re not full timers, but are stir crazy since we can’t leave our home either, but totally get the importance of personal distancing. RVers do this every time they go out! We need someone to fight for the right for RVers to travel, with conditions understood by all.
We’ll get through this, be safe, keep your distance, wash your hands! Hopefully, we’ll see you all in a park someday, sharing our stories of the past.

Mark C Schaffler
4 months ago

Lawyers are gonna make lots of $$ after this is all over.