Federal Judge: Pennsylvania’s Pandemic Restrictions Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Pittsburgh today found that orders issued by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf restricting the size of gatherings and closing non-essential businesses to guard against the spread of COVID-19 were unconstitutional.

The governor’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus “were undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency,” U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV wrote. “But even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered.”

Courts had consistently rejected challenges to Wolf’s power to order businesses to close during the pandemic, and many other governors — including Maryland Governor Larry Hogan — issued similar orders as the virus spread across the country.

According to Penn Live:

The suit was brought by four western Pennsylvania counties and several Republican state lawmakers.

It was filed during the “red phase” when many businesses were closed as the result of Wolf’s order.

A spokeswoman for Wolf said he was reviewing the decision and had no immediate response.

The state has since allowed businesses to reopen, although some — including restaurants, bars, and salons — are still operating under capacity restrictions.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.