By Christina Hager

BOSTON (CBS) – Did Governor Charlie Baker overstep his authority when he declared a state of emergency during the pandemic and ordered non-essential businesses to close their doors? A group representing Massachusetts businesses and organizations argued before the state’s highest court Friday, saying the shutdown was an overreach.

“The governor’s taken control and he’s turned the government upside down. I mean at this point the legislature is left to approve or disapprove of the governor’s policy choices? That’s not how it’s supposed to work,” said Michael DeGrandis, an attorney for the New Civil Liberties Alliance.

The public interest group filed the lawsuit in June on behalf of ten local businesses and organizations, including the owner of Apex Entertainment in Marlborough. The state slapped a cease and desist order against Apex this summer for keeping its arcade games running.

In an about face, Governor Charlie Baker announced Thursday that arcades can reopen next week, and defended his reopening plan. “The executive orders and the ability to execute and follow through on those executive orders was an incredibly important part of the success the Commonwealth has had in beating back and fighting COVID,” he said.

During Friday’s Supreme Judicial Court hearing, justices questioned attorneys on both sides. “Don’t you have to admit that Governor Baker’s done a pretty darn good job here, especially when you compare him to the other states?” asked Justice Elspeth Cypher.

“The governor has unlawfully dispensed of the law and violated due process,” argued DeGrandis.

The owner of two North End restaurants is also included in the lawsuit, Terramia Ristorante and Antico Forno.

A fellow restaurateur on Salem Street said it’s been difficult for everyone. “We’re trying to keep our employees working. We’re trying to keep our businesses going. We’ve invested our lives into these businesses,” said Anthony Radzikowski who owns Ernesto’s Pizzeria. “As much as it was new for me, it’s new for the governor, and I wouldn’t want to be in that position.”

Christina Hager