Several state governors have received accusations of abusing their executive power during the pandemic. Additionally, at least one judge thinks Pennsylvania’s governor is guilty.
Pennsylvania’s lockdown restrictions required people to remain in their homes, limited gatherings, and forced “non-life-sustaining” businesses to stay closed. However, a federal judge ruled that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, violated his constituents’ constitutional rights. It happened when he imposed these draconian lockdown restrictions across the state.
A group of Pennsylvania citizens decided to take the issue to court. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit included business owners and GOP officials. Pennsylvania’s Butler, Greene, Fayette, and Washington counties also joined the suit as plaintiffs. The lawsuit focused on the actions of Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, also a Democrat.
The case finally landed on US District Judge William Stickman IV docket on Monday, and he sided with the plaintiffs. According to Stickman’s judgment, the congregate gathering limits imposed by defendants’ mitigation orders violate the right of assembly enshrined in the First Amendment,” the “stay-at-home and business closure components of defendants’ orders violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” and “the business closure components of Defendants’ orders violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Abuse of Authority?
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0:00 Judge Overturns Pennsylvania Lockdown Orders
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However, the Trump-appointed judge stopped short of accusing Governor Wolf of abusing his authority. In fact, he gave Levin and Wolf a bit of pass. The two left-wing politicians undertook their actions “with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency,” he said. However “even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered.”
Stickman also echoed the sentiments of many conservatives and liberty-loving Americans when he called out the government for using a perceived public health crisis as an excuse to overstep the U.S. Constitution. “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,” said Judge Stickman. “There is no question that this country has faced, and will face, emergencies of every sort.”
The judge also added that they can never permit the solution to the crisis “to supersede the commitment to individual liberty that stands as the foundation of the American experiment.”
The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit several months ago, and Wolf has lifted several of the restrictions in question since then. Businesses can now reopen. Also, the statewide stay-at-home order has been canceled. However, Pennsylvania is still restricting indoor gatherings to 25 people and outdoor gatherings to 250.
Governor to Review Court Decisions
A spokesperson from Wolf’s office told reporters that the governor’s office is still reviewing the court’s decisions. Governor Wolf couldn’t be reached for comment.
The case is a redeeming victory for liberty and free-market advocates who were critical of the coronavirus lockdowns from the start, but it’s unclear if the decision has any teeth. It doesn’t seem like Governor Wolf will face any consequences for ruining businesses and lives with his draconian lockdown orders, so what will deter other leaders from taking similar actions in the future?
However, the big benefit of Judge Stickman’s ruling is that it could set a legal precedent for other groups that are suing state leadership. We could see a rash of new lawsuits against state governors in the coming months, and they have a better chance of winning now that the Pennsylvania plaintiffs won their case.
Attorney Thomas W. King III represented the plaintiffs, and he considers the decision a big win. “It’s a complete and total victory for the counties, the businesses, and the representatives,” King said. “You can’t order the entire population of Pennsylvania to stay at home.”