Coronavirus

Federal Court Rules Pennsylvania's Lockdown Order Unconstitutional

Population-wide lockdown orders are "such a dramatic inversion of the concept of liberty in a free society as to be nearly presumptively unconstitutional" wrote U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV

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A federal judge on Monday has ruled that lockdown restrictions imposed by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), including a ban on large gatherings and the closure of "non-life sustaining businesses," are unconstitutional.

While those restrictions were "well-intentioned," wrote U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV, "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 time of emergency."

In May, Wolf and Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine were sued by a coalition of counties, federal and state elected representatives, and several small businesses over the state's coronavirus restrictions. The restrictions included a shelter-in-place order requiring people to stay in their homes, a closure of all "non-life-sustaining" businesses, and bans on gatherings of more than 25 people indoors, or 250 people for outdoor gatherings.

The plaintiffs collectively argued that the governor's restrictions on gatherings violated the First Amendment's protections of free speech and assembly. The shelter-in-place order and closure of businesses, they contended, were a violation of their rights to substantive due process under the 14th Amendment.

Wolf's lawyers had argued that the restrictions on gatherings and business openings were well within his powers to respond to a public health emergency. He also argued that the lawsuit was moot because the state had since allowed many businesses to resume, including in the counties suing the state. Because emergency orders had only been partially suspended, and not retracted in their entirety, Stickman ruled that plaintiffs were still in their right to challenge them, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In regards to restrictions on gatherings, Stickman ruled that these were not "narrowly tailored" but "rather, they place substantially more burdens on gatherings than needed to achieve their stated purpose" of controlling the transmission of the virus.

The fact that the governor's orders allow people to visit malls, restaurants, and stores in greater numbers than what the state's restrictions on gatherings permit showed that the latter were overly broad, Stickman wrote. His opinion also cites comments from Wolf's chief of staff about how large protests—which the governor attended—didn't lead to a "super spreader" event as evidence that restrictions on gatherings were overly broad.

Stickman similarly ruled that Wolf's order closing non-life sustaining businesses was also overly broad and arbitrary, and deprived Pennsylvanians of their right to earn a living under the 14th Amendment. Stickman also wrote that population-wide lockdowns are "such a dramatic inversion of the concept of liberty in a free society as to be nearly presumptively unconstitutional."

NEXT: Classes #8: The Tenth Amendment and Chain of Title

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  1. So the governer responsible for being dictators agree going to prison for unlawful orders right?….right?

    1. In my perfect world, anybody who votes for a law that is later ruled unconstitutional may not participate in the next election.

      1. How about all future elections?

        1. I think having to sit out one would do the trick, and I believe in second chances. Perhaps a second violation could be all future elections.

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      2. I’d go with punishing the politicians, but much more harshly. If the Supreme Court overturns a law as unconstitutional, the next day the Congressfolks who voted for it, and the President who signed it (except in the case of an overridden veto) get hanged on the Capitol steps, whether they’re still in office or not.

        Obviously this would require some rework on how justices are picked, since the incentive for a President and Senators would be to pick ones who wouldn’t so rule.

        1. I feel like Marge Simpson in tree house o f horror talking to fang and Kang “ohhh you couldn’t kill All of the polititions”

          1. I believe this is the more relevant Simpsons reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7NeRiNefO0

        2. Hanging’s too much. I’d settle for making them personally liable for the costs of fighting the unconstitutional law and getting it overturned. Plus punitive damages depending on how egregiously obvious the violation was.

          1. That would do alot of damage to the anti 2a people like new york where they make laws wait for it to be sued drain money then retract the law and repeat. I like your style

        3. Passing a law isn’t a crime, even if it’s a bad law.
          Enforcing government orders that go beyond the law is a crime.

          1. The term “emergency” is a fun one, particularly if you get to define it according to your own actions, and presume that emergencies begin when it is convenient and they last as long as you want them to. The world watched this crossing the globe for a couple of months before governors started declaring emergencies. There never was an emergency. By having the chance to act and choose not to, the State legislatures were in fact making a decision that the governors basically overruled.

            In reality, there are emergencies in government, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and concern over imminent invasion of the west coast as an example. In 1941, Congress managed to convene in 4 days to declare war. I think this is more than ample time for any State legislature to convene and decide whether they are jointly going to try and strip their own constituents of their Constitutional rights.

            Outside of this, any such order by a governor is not only unconstitutional, it’s a violation of oath of office to uphold the Constitution, and borderline treasonous.

            1. That’s a very good point that isn’t made enough. There was never an emergency in most states. You could probably make the case that there was in NYC, but that’s about it.
              And even if there is an emergency, it’s ridiculous to allow governors to extend them indefinitely. A week or two makes sense. But that should be plenty of time for the legislature to consider what should be done in the longer term. It’s ridiculous that these emergency laws allow indefinite extension. How many dictatorships start with a state of emergency declaration that never ends?

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        4. “Apparently, on New Texas, killing a politician was not considered malum in se, and was mallum prohibitorum only to the extent that what happened to the politician was in excess of what he deserved.”

          — H. Beam Piper

      3. My version of that is a little broader and treats all legal claims as bets: if you lose, you owe what your claim would have cost your victims. Accuse someone of murder, lose, and you get the punishment your alleged murderer would have received.

        Or at least make such rebound a possible jury verdict. I would have court cases not be only to judge the specific claim of “did Joe Doe murder Jane Doe?” but the entire incident, allowing the jury to decide that the prosecutor was way out of line and should be found guilty of over-prosecution.

      4. keep in mind judges have determined that abortion is a constitutional right while firearms may be regulated into oblivion without violating any constitutional rights.

        or rather: your idea is good in theory but in practice you still have morons determining what is and is not ‘constitutional’

      5. How bout the death penalty for the havoc they have wrought?

      6. I like this idea. It serves as a course correction by removing biased actors from the political process and provides time for people to learn and understand why certain policies were unconstitutional.

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  2. While those restrictions were “well-intentioned,”

    “Go home and enjoy your unemployment” – Gov Tom Wolf (D-PA)

    1. I’ve been resting for unemployed checks for , nearly 3 months. What I really want is a job to go to every day.

    2. unless you’re a landlord. then you have no unemployment to claim, and oh by the way, your renters don’t have to pay you, and you can’t replace them with better renters.

      1. And don’t forget that various laws still require that you spend money you aren’t taking in on maintenance and repairs.

  3. Petition in Michigan has 400k signatures to remove Whitmers lockdown powers as well.

    1. Mine and my wife’s being two of them.

      1. Whats the required number for ballot access?

        1. 340,000 validated. They’re trying to get to 500, cuz a lot will get tossed.

          1. Arizona is famous for getting voter petitions tossed. They often do so under the guise of signatures not matching or address changed. The rules for petitions are more stringent than for elections.

      2. Mine and my wife’s being two more.

  4. We found a judge worth keeping.

    Let’s find another.

    1. there was one in Wisconsin who tossed out their lockdown order

      1. That was a handful of judges- the state Supreme Court. Though sadly, one of the “correct” justices, Daniel Kelly, was a lame duck at that point as he had just lost the controversial April election to a lib, Jill Karofsky. And we apparently have our very own John Roberts in alleged conservative Brian Hagedorn who sided with the minority in upholding Evers’ powers. Would be interesting how that case would play out again- the seat occupied by Karofsky would almost certainly flip to uphold the governor’s powers- not sure if Hagedorn would do the right thing now that his vote would make the difference.

        Oddly, I just realized when I was writing this- as of now, on the WI Supreme Court, SIX OF SEVEN JUSTICES ARE WOMEN. Damn that patriarchy…

        1. It just proves that like most bureaucrats, most justices side not with freedom but government power. It is one of the saddest items of the balance of power between the branches of governent. I think the founders thought that judges would be part of the wall between the government and people.

  5. Federal Court Rules Pennsylvania’s Lockdown Order Unconstitutional

    Bout fuckin time.

  6. U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV

    Stickman is no strawman.

    1. But not quite a Brickman?

  7. Local NBC news pointed out that judge is a Trump appointee.
    Does this ruling mean Gauleiter Wolf’s orders are suspended or that they remain in place while Wolf appeals?

    1. The governor suspended the lockdown orders. The judge noted that and said it’s not enough to moot the case.

      1. They were only partially suspended, but the argument about moot is irrelevant. The orders were given, people were forced under penalty to stay home, and the damage was done. This case was only partly about lifting it, and also about its constitutionality. It’s like ordering a hit and arguing that criminal charges are moot because the victim is dead and so the order to kill is no longer effective.

        1. Actually the limitations on gatherings are still in place. Wolf announced last week that he will allow bars and restaurants to go back to 50% capacity, but they must stop serving at 10 PM. They must submit a plan and agree to his whims of face fines and jail time. He says that it is to protect the “college kids”. He still controls the licensing agencies including the LCB so he can pretty much do what he wants by changing regulations.

          1. PROTECT THEM FROM WHAT? NOBODY GOING TO COLLEGE IS GETTING SICK!!!!!!

            1. Given the typical college student’s age, the Flu is a greater risk.
              The Flu risk is the same as last year, and the year before, etc.

        2. But wouldn’t the fines be thrown out? So, it hits at government revenue that is the real problem.

  8. Best news I’ve heard since this shit storm began. And now we have precedent. Hopefully others will be emboldened to sue as well.

    1. Sue? Let’s sneak up on these bastards in their cars and fucking assassinate them when they least expect it. Bring back the guillotine!

      1. That does sound awfully satisfying. Let’s give the Portland pussies a run for their money.

      2. someone has already stolen your idea and is putting it to work.

    2. These lawsuits should be happening in every state run by a dictator.

  9. I don’t understand. If it’s unconstitutional for the Governor of Pennsylvania to inflict a statewide lockdown order, then doesn’t that mean it would have been unconstitutional for President Trump to inflict a nationwide lockdown order on the states? I mean, maybe he could have done so constitutionally by declaring a national emergency, but if Trump had done that, then progressives might have accused him of being a fascist–and what could be worse than that?

    It’s a good thing President Trump steadfastly refused to institute lockdowns on a national basis–not only because it should be unconstitutional (even if it isn’t) but also because if inflicting Philadelphia’s lockdown standards on small town Pennsylvania is stupid, then inflicting New York’s standards on Utah must be going full retard. We should be glad that Hillary Clinton wasn’t elected in 2016 for so many reasons. Add this one to the pile.

    1. Federalism doesn’t exist. The left and others want trump to act fascist so they can be right.

      Was hilarious seeing Biden already backtrack on his first day in office mask order as being unconstitutional.

    2. Speaking of retard, when it comes to imposing uniform standards, there are equality fetishists who cannot abide the idea that other people might escape (unwarranted) onerous restrictions. To frightened sheeple in NY, who might in some way benefit from a lockdown, it is Just Not Fair that some people in Utah, who don’t need the same shutdown, are not made to suffer the same pain.

    3. Yeah. That’s pretty much my favorite thing Trump has done (or declined to do).

  10. “He also argued that the lawsuit was moot because the state had since allowed many businesses to resume”

    Democrats seem to love this tactic. Hoping for no ruling so they can pull this shit again later.

    1. Meanwhile my city is falling apart. Closure after closure. Walmart somehow survived.

  11. I agree with all but the “well intentioned” part – – – – – – – – – – – –

    That bastard had nothing but evil in his heart.

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  13. Too local?

    https://twitter.com/justinamash/status/1305654747786096640?s=21

    “On Thursday, Donald Trump quietly renewed the national emergency declared by GWB 19 years ago today. This is insane. There is no continuing “emergency” related to the 9/11 attacks, but there is a continuing use of 9/11 as a pretext for the president and Congress to abuse power.”

    1. How dare you question what Reason covers, Dee!

    2. Yeah, that’s bullshit too. These emergency powers laws are far too permissive. They need to be strictly limited in time. After a few weeks, require legislative approval to extend any emergency orders. Unless Washington has been nuked or something, there’s no reason that can’t happen.

    3. Amash is a whiny hack as always, using Trump to continue his own feeble 15 minutes of fame while accomplishing nothing of use.

      The continuation of the emergency powers has been happening every year by every president. My understanding is that it is necessary to continue to have any troops deployed in Afganistan. Since Congress didn’t have the moral courage to actually declare war and own the conflict, the emergency powers are the only thing allowing troops to remained deployed over there.
      And since Trump has been the president most vocal and interested in getting out of, even so far as to bump heads with the generals and hawks, it is typical pathetic Amash TDS to bash Trump on something like this.

  14. Every lockdown was unconstitutional and illegal. No elected or appointed official in the USA has the legal authority to quarantine healthy citizens indefinitely. Someone who is proven sick, or who has been exposed to someone proven sick, can be quarantined for the incubation period of the illness (plus a small buffer zone), but that’s it.

    1. I’m not convinced that the latter is even true.

    2. So you’re just making up rules out of your ass.

      This is not a disease in which only the sick are contagious. Got that?

      What if it were something highly contagious and more deadly? When does the government have the right to prevent you from killing other people?

      1. The government has zero legal authority to restrict the free movement and association of citizens.
        Arguing that ’emergencies’ justify the quarantine of potentially infectious, yet innocent/healthy people is a disgusting premise based solely on totalitarianism.
        But of course you, Tony, a wanna-be totalitarian, would be expected to be in favor of that.
        The lockdown only is valid if free people agree to do it. Which is why there has been almost zero enforcement of those that do not agree.

      2. “When does the government have the right to prevent you from killing other people?”
        Governments don’t have rights. Perhaps you meant to ask “When does the government have the duty or authority to prevent you from killing other people?”
        But “government” is just a collection of people, so your question becomes
        “When does one group of people have the duty or authority to prevent you from killing other people?”
        But the “you” in that question is a specific individual, not a statistical collection of innocent and potentially guilty, yet all of which are punished following your moral code.
        Hence the answer to your original question is “never”. Yours is an immoral philosophy that punishes the innocent in order to get at the guilty. That a sick person happens to be a victim themselves, even the concept of “guilt” on their part befitting punishment is itself an immoral philosophy. Everything about your philosophy is an inversion of morals and ethics that you would scream against were it applied to you.

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  16. His opinion also cites comments from Wolf’s chief of staff about how large protests—which the governor attended—didn’t lead to a “super spreader” event as evidence that restrictions on gatherings were overly broad.

    Ha! Dipshit hoisted on his own woke petard.

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  18. What’ll be really amazing is if they don’t just ignore this judge entirely

  19. So you people have absolutely no concern whatsoever with how many people die of the virus. Will you when Biden is president? Will you be both very concerned about the death and still horrible petulant assholes about measures needed to slow it? I bet you will!

    1. My parents are elderly and my father would be considered high risk. They self quarantined for a few months, then got to the point that they didn’t what to sacrifice the time they had left with their friends and family. They try to minimize risk, but accept that living their life is more important then hiding from the risk of life.
      Anyone who dictates how the can and can’t live their life can go to hell.

      1. My mother is 81, and has other risk factors. In March, I asked her if she still wanted me to bring my kids for our planned spring break visit. She said, “Even without this thing, I could die tomorrow. If it kills me to see my granddaughters, that’s still better than dying without seeing them.” If we can make it, she wants us to visit for her birthday in a couple months, too.

    2. “So you people have absolutely no concern whatsoever with how many people die of the virus.”
      No, none. I didn’t make the virus, nor supported the CCP efforts to do so. I conduct myself in the most responsible ways to protect people I interact with based on current scientific understanding, and do not need poorly educated Karens like yourself, or wannabe totalitarian politicians to tell me how I must live my life.
      “Will you when Biden is president?”
      No, but I expect your screeching volume is directly linked to who is in political power at the time.

    3. If yer skeered, say you skeered.

      I’m up for living life while I have it. You, may live it under your bed should you choose or take any other measures you deem appropriate to your own circumstances. My participation in your delusions is not required.

    4. Shove your jackboots up your ass, Tony.

    5. No, I am one of the elderly (over 70 and with a diagnosis of cancer) and don’t feel threatened by this virus. i have taken normal precautions and do enjoy going out to other places including my horse’s trainer in one of the counties hard hit with virus in my state and riding my horse. I have had no problems. I don’t wear a mask as I believe the health consequences of wearing one is worse than the virus. I also think I had it back in December as I had all the symptoms that were reported early on. I survived by taking vitamin C and D.

      It was reinforced this weekend when I talked to a good friend who is an EMT and has treated over two hundred cases of Covid. He has been barfed on, sneezed on and coughed on by Covid patients and hasn’t caught it. He thinks it is just like the flu. He also told me that the reported numbers are suspect as doctors at hospitals are putting down Covid even if it a heart attack to get the extra 2 grand from the feds.

    6. 25 countries and 26 states had different lockdown policies, but statistically no different outcomes. They had different timing for peaks and troughs, but adjusted for population density and total area “under the curve” as it were doesn’t seem to be much affected by lockdowns at all. My parents, both high risk baby boomers, got covid, tested positive and had basically nothing more than a cold each. Sure it’s worse for some, but quarantine for the healthy, shutting down business, and getting people hooked on unemployment didn’t seem to make any appreciable difference.

  20. Socialist Democrats don’t care about any laws. They dictate to the masses and use fear to get their way. We have a dictator here in Michigan who has incorporated some 180 executive orders in which you would need a lawyer to keep up with. Much of it is conflicting and open to interpretation. Good to see there are still a few in government who have not gone insane and gotten overly punch drunk with abusive power.

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  23. The Left know they can gain a great deal of power before this cluster of corruption makes it’s way through the court system. A judgement AFTER they have gained power is THE strategy.

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