On March 4, 2020, California's Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed a "state of emergency" as a result of the outbreak of a respiratory illness in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The term "state of emergency" is just one of three degrees of emergency under California's Emergency Services Act - the other two being a "state of war emergency" and "local emergency". Cal. Gov't Code § 8558. Under the act, the Governor's proclamation of a state of emergency must be in writing and takes effect immediately upon its issuance. Cal. Gov't Code § 8626, but when does it end? Government Code Section 8629 provides an answer, but not a complete answer:
"The Governor shall proclaim the termination of a state of emergency at the earliest possible date that conditions warrant. All of the powers granted the Governor by this chapter with respect to a state of emergency shall terminate when the state of emergency has been terminated by proclamation of the Governor or by concurrent resolution of the Legislature declaring it at an end."
In 2001, Governor Gray Davis proclaimed a state of emergency based on the state's electrical energy crisis. Two year later, a citizen's group asked the Governor to terminate the state of emergency because the "energy crisis has long since subsided". The Governor refused to do so and a lawsuit ensued. The Superior Court sustained the Governor's demurrer, finding that the "this is not the type of case that is appropriate for judicial review . . .[¶] . . . [I]t is . . . a legislative or a decision of the Governor . . .". The plaintiffs appealed and Governor Davis declared the emergency ended shortly before oral arguments.
The Court of Appeal nonetheless decided the appeal. National Tax-Limitation Committee v. Schwarzenegger, 113 Cal. App. 4th 1266 (2003). According to the Court of Appeal, if the plaintiffs could prove that there is no longer a power crisis, the Governor's refusal to make a determination would be an abuse of discretion under the Emergency Services Act that could be corrected by a writ of mandate. The California Supreme Court denied review, but ordered the Court of Appeal's opinion to be depublished. 2004 Cal. LEXIS 2228.