State Senator Mike Doherty (R-23) tangled this afternoon with Matthew J. Platkin on the subject of the state’s COVID-19 response, and Plakin’s role as Governor Phil Murphy’s chief counsel during the crisis.
Now the state’s acting attorney general trying to win senate approval to serve as attorney general, Platkin listened as Doherty pointed to Murphy’s 200 executive orders. “You were the signatory,” the senator said. “What do you think of those who felt this was an overreaching power grab that basically stomped out other two branches of government – executive order after arbitrary executive order.”
Doherty pointed out that along the way, the state ordered the shuttering of churches, while liquor stores could remain open, “even though the Constitution says people have the right to practice their faith.” He also noted that Walmart could remain open while the local bike shop had to remain closed.
“You were involved with Governor Murphy in crafting these policies,” observed the Republican senator.
In responding to the question, Platkin said everyone can agree that New Jersey – and the world – had to confront a “once in a century public health crisis.”
He was in the administration as chief counsel for the first seven months of the pandemic, a particularly intense time, with no exacting roadmap about how to contain the virus.
“I believe the governor acted at all times based on the advice of health professionals,” Platkin said. “None [of the executive orders issued by Murphy] were struck down by state or federal courts; ultimately the decisions made by what public health officials said was the best information for the health of residents.
“As the pandemic emerged, we learned more about how to approach the response,” he added. “At the outset the governor made decisions pursuant to state and federal law, and as I said, despite repeated challenges, no court ever said he exceeded that authority.”
“The Constitution… doesn’t say anything about liquor stores stay[ing] open,” Doherty noted.