Governor Tom Wolf’s (D-PA) COVID-19 restrictions have been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. The complaint was filed back on May 7, arguing that the governor’s orders, limiting the size of gatherings, the stay-at-home order, and the closure of non-life-sustaining businesses, were unconstitutional. The original complainants in the suit were the counties of Washington, Butler, Greene, and Fayette, (although the judge dismissed the county governments from the case), Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly, Republican State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, and various businesses including hair salons, a farmer’s market vendor, a horse trainer, and drive-in movie theaters.
US District Judge William Stickman IV, ruled on Monday in a 66-page opinion that the restrictions were overreaching, arbitrary, and violated citizens’ constitutional rights.
The decision read in part, “In this Country, founded on a tradition of liberty enshrined in our Constitution, governments, governors, and courts have grappled with how to balance the legitimate authority of public officials in a health emergency with the Constitutional rights of citizens.”
“After reviewing the record in this case, including numerous exhibits and witness testimony, the Court believes that Defendants undertook their actions in a well-intentioned effort to protect Pennsylvania from the virus. However, good intentions toward a laudable end are not alone enough to uphold governmental action against a constitutional challenge. Indeed, the greatest threats to our system of constitutional liberties may arise when the ends are laudable, and the intent is good – especially in a time of emergency.”
“In an emergency, even a vigilant public may let down its guard over its constitutional liberties only to find that liberties, once relinquished, are hard to recoup and that restrictions – while expedient in the face of an emergency situation – may persist long after the immediate danger has passed.”
“Thus, in reviewing emergency measures, the job of courts is made more difficult by the delicate balancing that they must undertake. The Court is guided in this balancing by principles of established constitutional jurisprudence”, the decision continued.
Attorney Thomas W. King III, who represented the plaintiffs in the case said in a statement after the decision was announced, “It’s a complete and total victory for the counties, the businesses, and the representatives. You can’t order the entire population of Pennsylvania to stay at home.”
Laura Ingraham, of Fox News Ingraham Angle, applauded the decision, “It was a phenomenal ruling,” Ingraham said. “We’ve been telling you this for months. Our constitutional rights may not be indefinitely abridged by executive fiat, period.”
Ingraham continued commenting on the governor’s executive order, “It violated the First Amendment right of assembly, the due process clause, and the Equal Protection Clause 14th amendment.”
Governor Wolf’s spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensinger defended the governor in comments reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, saying, “The actions taken by the administration were mirrored by governors across the country and saved, and continue to save, lives in the absence of federal action.” She continued, “This decision is especially worrying as Pennsylvania and the rest of the country are likely to face a challenging time with the possible resurgence of COVID-19 and the flu in the fall and winter.”
The President took to Twitter to congratulate the Pennsylvania plaintiffs in the case by stating, “Congratulations Pennsylvania. Now we await the decision on the Rigged Ballot Scam, which is bad for our Country!”
Congratulations Pennsylvania. Now we await the decision on the Rigged Ballot Scam, which is so bad for our Country! https://t.co/IoqhQedPey
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2020
The ruling means that the current restrictions – including limitations on the size of all gatherings, cannot be enforced.