Judge rules Governor Wolf’s Mandatory Closure Unconstitutional
September 14, 2020
By Richard A. Monti, Esquire
A Federal Judge ruled, Monday, that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandatory closure of “non-life sustaining businesses,” and his limits on the amount of people allowed to gather in one place are unconstitutional.
That doesn’t mean that citizens and business owners should ignore current and future orders from the Governor just yet. It also means only the government’s orders that are challenged. Private businesses can still legally impose a rule that everyone entering their business must wear a mask to be served.
In a 66-page decision, Federal Judge William Stickman IV, a 2019 appointee, ruled that the mandatory closure of businesses and limits restricting the size of gatherings violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The opinion in City of Butler, et al v. Thomas W. Wolf, et al. concludes that the freedom to assemble guaranteed in the First Amendment — and that Due Process and Equal Protection, which are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment – were violated by Wolf’s orders in March.
Stickman wrote that those freedoms cannot be violated, even during a pandemic that has sickened 29 million people and killed 925,000, worldwide.
Despite the ruling, the Governor’s orders still seem to remain in effect. The ruling does not seem to automatically overturn the Governor’s order, but instead would serve as precedent in a future state law action.
The Wolf Administration has already announced that they will appeal the ruling.
An appeal would likely leave the Governor’s orders in place until the appeal was further litigated.
Rothman Gordon will keep watching City of Butler, et al v. Thomas W. Wolf, et al. as it progresses through the courts.