U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV, appointed by President Donald Trump, has ruled that the power of government during a public health emergency is not “unfettered” and Pennsylvania’s coronavirus restrictions are unconstitutional.
Governor Tom Wolf’s (D-Pa.) draconian response to the threat included ordering residents to stay at home, placing size limits on gatherings, and ordering “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down. A group of mostly small businesses and a few GOP lawmakers sued on the grounds that Wolf had exceeded his authority.
The Wolf administration’s pandemic policies have been overreaching, arbitrary and violated citizens’ constitutional rights, Stickman wrote in his ruling.
The governor’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus “were undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency,” Stickman wrote. “But even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered.”
Many federal judges don’t see it that way. They have ruled against plaintiffs seeking relief from state-imposed restrictions. In fact, there is no clear direction from the courts on how to deal with a public health crisis without trashing the Constitution.
The implementation of methods to deal with the public health crisis has resulted in an economic crisis that is threatening the livelihood of thousands of business people.
Wolf has since lifted many of the restrictions, allowing businesses to reopen and canceling a statewide stay-at-home order.
But over the summer, his administration imposed a new round of statewide pandemic restrictions on bars, restaurants and larger indoor gatherings in response to rising infection rates in some virus hot spots. The state has also imposed a gathering limit of more than 25 people for events held indoors and more than 250 people for those held outside.
It appears that Wolf will appeal the decision.
Response from @GovernorTomWolf ‘s spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger ,”The administration is disappointed with the result and will seek a stay of the decision and file an appeal.” See full statement attached … pic.twitter.com/hjoq4Sxr99
— Annie McCormick (@6abcAnnie) September 14, 2020
Donald Trump celebrated the judge’s decision and feels vindicated by his actions.
At a “Latinos for Trump” roundtable Monday night, the president claimed, without evidence, states will open everything Nov. 4 and said he hopes other judges will strike down coronavirus mandates.
“We hope that’s going to happen in North Carolina,” he said. “We hope it’s going to happen in Michigan, too, because it’s just totally shut down.”
Trump has repeatedly criticized Democratic governors for shutting down their states’ economies in efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
Any judge that confirms the power of the state is not “unfettered” — even in a public health emergency — deserves applause. It’s rare that judges see any limit on government power these days.
Trump also celebrated his court win on Air Force One, tweeting out that his next legal target was the “Rigged Ballot Scam.”
“Congratulations Pennsylvania. Now we await the decision on the Rigged Ballot Scam, which is so bad for our Country!” Trump tweeted to his 85 million followers, referring to mail-in ballots which he has tried to discredit before the election.
Sharing another tweet from an Illinois woman who wrote, “It’s time, Illinois,” Trump responded: “And Michigan, and North Carolina. Next up, phony Ballot voting Hoax!”
Sit back, relax, and strap it down. It’s going to be a very bumpy ride to elect the next president.