Coronavirus: the Council of State limits mayors’ powers

Published by Manon C. · Photos by Alexandre G. · Published on 21 April 2020 at 11h14
The Council of State has limited mayors’ powers as to take measures different from those from the State, excluding “imperative reasons” as part of the health emergency.

For several weeks, some mayors make decrees (mandatory facemasks, no two-minute stop in the street and so on) and the government often has them return on their decisions. Secretary of the Interior Christophe Castaner even shared his strong opposition to this kind of municipal decrees.

This Friday April 17, the Council of State addressed about the municipal decree ordering to wear a mask in Sceaux and the highest administrative jurisdiction in France decided to limit mayors’ power in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic.

From now on, mayors can no longer “on their own initiative, take other measures said to fight against the health sinister” the Council said. “The only possible exceptions to this decision must be ‘imperative reasons’ related to local circumstances, provided they do not jeopardize the coherence and the effectiveness of measures made by the State authorities”.

As for the Sceaux municipal decree, on the agenda that day, the Council of State thought it would “harm the coherence of the measures made in the interest of the public health by the competent health authorities” and cancelled it, also saying circumstances given by the mayor “are not imperative reasons justifying that facemasks be mandatory in the public spaces of the city, while the State authorities have not taken such a measure on the national scale”.

The Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (French League of Human Rights) that referred the tribunal against the decree hailed this decision. Its lawyer Patrice Spinosi says “The French League of Human Rights is happy to see that the Council of State devotes its law interpretation by limiting the general police power of mayors during the health emergency. This decision does jurisprudence and aims at being used throughout the entire country. It condemns definitely mayors’ numerous initiatives to worsen the measures made by the government as for the confinement and deconfinement”.

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