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Shutdown Orders Violate Constitution, Federal Judge Rules




Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown orders in response to COVID-19 violate the right to assembly under the First Amendment and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge ruled.

Although mitigation efforts were enacted with good intentions, “even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered,” U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV wrote in his September 14 decision.

The plaintiffs, including small businesses, county governments, and individuals, challenged restrictions on economic activity such as capacity limitations and shutdown orders on “non-life sustaining’ businesses. The plaintiffs did not contest the state’s mask mandate.

“The liberties protected by the Constitution are not fair-weather freedoms—in place when times are good but able to be cast aside in trouble,” wrote Stickman. “There is no question that this country has faced, and will face, emergencies of every sort.”

Governments must follow the rules even if it prevents them from doing things they consider essential.

“The Constitution cannot accept the concept of a ‘new normal’ where the basic liberties of the people can be subordinated to open-ended emergency mitigation measures,” Stickman wrote.



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