A California trial court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by conservative media commentator John V. Lacy that had challenged the constitutionality of the March 2019 executive order by Governor Gavin Newsom (pictured) declaring a moratorium on executions in the state.

In orders issued on August 31, 2021, the Sacramento Superior Court denied Lacy’s motion to strike down Newsom’s moratorium for allegedly exceeding his authority under the California constitution and granted Newsom’s motion to dismiss Lacy’s suit. The court found that Lacy had failed to show that he “sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury” from the execution moratorium or that the moratorium declaration had violated “a ministerial duty” that Newsom and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation were “required to be performed in a prescribed manner.” Accordingly, the court said, Lacy lacked standing to sue.

Lacy, a former co-chair of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) conference in Washington, D.C. and a co-host of the radio program Live in Taxifornia, has described supporters of the moratorium as “the progressive pro-criminal crowd” and asserted that “the media praises cop killers and promotes defunding the police.” He claimed that his repeated votes “for initiative measures that would continue capital punishment in the state and against measures that would reduce or eliminate it” conferred upon him personal standing to challenge the moratorium. Newsom argued that Lacy had alleged nothing more than “personal dissatisfaction with the Governor’s actions” and had no legal basis to sue.

The California constitution grants the governor the powers of reprieve, pardon, and commutation. Newsom’s order declared an “executive moratorium on the death penalty … in the form of a reprieve for all people sentenced to death in California.” Having determined that Lacy lacked standing to sue, the court “decline[d] to rule on the underlying constitutional argument that would be addressed if [Lacy] had standing.”


Bob Egelko, Judge knocks down chal­lenge to Newsom’s death penal­ty mora­to­ri­um, San Francisco Chronicle, August 31, 2021; James V. Lacy, Gavin Newsom’s Flawed Death Penalty Moratorium, KABC​.com, August 312021.

Read the rul­ing of the Sacramento Superior Court in Lacy v. Newsom.