In a major victory for freedom, a Trump-appointed federal judge just struck down pandemic restrictions placed on the people of Pennsylvania – sending a blow to the tyrannical Democrat governor Tom Wolf who was destroying the state’s economy by enforcing these restrictions for as long as possible.
The restrictions required people to stay at home, placed size limits on gatherings and ordered “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down.
U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV sided with plaintiffs that included hair salons, drive-in movie theaters, a farmer’s market vendor, a horse trainer and several Republican officeholders who sued as individuals.
Stickman wrote in his ruling that the Wolf administration’s pandemic policies have been overreaching, arbitrary and violated citizens’ constitutional rights.
“Even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered. The liberties protected by the Constitution are not fair-weather — freedoms in place when times are good but able to be cast aside in times of trouble.”
Stickman ruled that parts of Wolf’s coronavirus restrictions violated both the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
The state of Pennsylvania argued the restrictions, which included an indoor social gathering limit of 25 people, were a legitimate exercise of the state’s police powers during a public health emergency. However, Stickman concluded the language of the July 15 order describing the duration of restrictions, which reads “until further notice,” was too broad and that the congregate limits “violate the right of assembly enshrined in the First Amendment.”
Stickman also took aim at the components of the state’s order that closed the operations of businesses, determining they violated both the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, which prevents the government from depriving life, liberty, or property without due process, and the equal protection clause, which requires states to govern with impartial judgment.
Under Wolf’s three-phase reopening plan, only “life-sustaining” businesses were permitted to reopen, such as grocery stores, while schools were ordered closed. Stickman sided with plaintiffs who said that the decision to differentiate between “life-sustaining” and “non-life-sustaining” was an “arbitrary, ad hoc process.”
Small businesses ordered to shut down, the plaintiffs argued, often sell the same products or services as big-box retailers. Stickman said it is “paradoxical” that an order meant to keep people apart allowed the largest retailers with the highest occupancy limits, such as Home Depot and Walmart, to remain open.
“The Court recognizes that Defendants were facing a pressing situation to formulate a plan to address the nascent COVID-19 pandemic… But in making that choice, they were not merely coming up with a draft of some theoretical white paper, but rather, determining who could work and who could not,” Stickman said.
Stickman added that the “solution to a national crisis can never be permitted to supersede the commitment to individual liberty.”
Although many states placed restrictions on gatherings and businesses in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Wolf’s were among the most restrictive and long lasting.
Still, up until now the courts had consistently rejected challenges to Wolf’s power to order businesses to close during the pandemic.
Wolf was forced to lift many of the restrictions when the lawsuit was filed in May, but many of the more disruptive restrictions remain in place which stands to be changed by this Stickman’s crucial ruling.
Thomas King, the attorney for those challenging the restrictions, called the decision a “complete and total victory” for counties, businesses, and others affected by the order. “You can’t order the entire population of Pennsylvania to stay at home,” King said.
A spokesperson for Wolf said the administration was reviewing the decision.