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State’s top court, mulling Baker’s emergency authority, told he’s ‘turned the government upside down’

The SJC heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by a group of business owners seeking to overturn the dozens of executive orders Baker has issued.

Chin, Barry Globe Staff
The John Adams Courthouse, at left, the home of the Supreme Judicial Court.

The state’s highest court is weighing a challenge to the sweeping emergency powers Governor Charlie Baker has wielded amid the pandemic, setting up a decision with potentially far-reaching effects on the scope of gubernatorial authority and the millions of lives it touches.

The Supreme Judicial Court, meeting virtually without its chief justice, heard arguments Friday in a lawsuit brought by a group of business owners seeking to overturn the dozens of executive orders Baker has issued since declaring a state of emergency six months ago in response to COVID-19.

The case focuses on the 1950 Civil Defense Act, a Cold War-era law that grants the governor broad authority in the face of enemy attacks, sabotage, riots, fire, floods, or what it calls other “natural causes.”

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