U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV, a Trump appointee, ruled on Monday that Pennsylvania Democrat Governor Tom Wolf’s coronavirus orders, which shut down the state,
closed businesses and limited gatherings, were unconstitutional.
The efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus “were undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency,” Stickman wrote according to reporting by Justine Coleman of The Hill newspaper.
"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," Stickman wrote in an opinion that has become a rallying cry for conservatives across the country. "There is no question that this Country has faced, and will face, emergencies of every sort. But the solution to a national crisis can never be permitted to supersede the commitment to individual liberty that stands as the foundation of the American experiment."
According to Ms. Coleman’s reporting four Pennsylvania counties — Butler, Fayette, Greene and Washington — along with Rep. Mike Kelly (PA-16), three state representatives, and seven businesses and their owners challenged the state government’s coronavirus orders. Their lawsuit was filed in May, when these counties were in the “red” phase that required residents to stay at home.
Matt Petrillo of CBS 3 Philly reports business owners say they’ve been waiting to hear a ruling like this for months.
“It actually brings tears to my eyes,” Nichole Missino told Mr. Petrillo.
Missino, owner of Giovanni’s Barber Shop in Media, Delaware County, reacted Monday after judge Stickman agreed with her that Wolf’s business shutdown order was unconstitutional.
Giovanni’s defied the shutdown order amid the pandemic and reopened in May.
“We didn’t have any money coming in from anywhere. It was awful, we were closed for 10 weeks, my barbers were starving,” Missino said.
“It’s a complete and total victory for the counties, the businesses and the representatives,” said attorney Thomas W. King III, who represented the plaintiffs in the case. “You can’t order the entire population of Pennsylvania to stay at home.”
According to reporting by Paula Reed Ward of triblive.com, plaintiff’s attorney King said the judge’s decision finding gathering limits to be unconstitutional now applies to everyone in Pennsylvania.
He said the finding that the stay-at-home order was unconstitutional means it can never be repeated.
As for the closure of nonessential businesses, King believes that will open the door to business owners filing lawsuits against the state seeking relief, or compensation, for their losses during the closure.
“Our goal in bringing this action was that our county commissioners in Butler believed these orders were unconstitutional and unconstitutionally affected residents of their county.”
In testimony for the case, King said, there was no medical evidence presented relative to the spread of covid-19, and Levine did not testify and instead sent a representative to do so.
King said he posed the question — once the stay-at-home order was lifted in early June — what establishments in Allegheny County were responsible for the increased spread of the virus, and no one could answer.
“You can’t just shut down American society,” King said according to Ms. Ward’s reporting.
Stickman wrote that the Constitution “sets certain lines that may not be crossed, even in an emergency.”
“The fact is that the lockdowns imposed across the United States in early 2020 in response to the covid-19 pandemic are unprecedented in the history of our commonwealth and our country,” Stickman wrote. “They have never been used in response to any other disease in our history. They were not recommendations made by the CDC.”
Stickman wrote that the defendants never had a set definition for what constituted a “life-sustaining” business, and instead the definition remained in flux.
Stickman wrote that there also was no precedent for the closure of nonessential businesses.
“Never before has the government taken a direct action which shuttered so many businesses and sidelined so many employees and rendered their ability to operate, and to work, solely dependent on government discretion,” he said.
Stickman wrote that the right of citizens to support themselves in their chosen occupation “is deeply rooted in our nation’s legal and cultural history.”
“A total shutdown of a business with no end-date and the specter of additional, future shutdowns can cause critical damage to a business’s ability to survive, to an employee’s ability to support him/herself, and adds a government-induced cloud of uncertainty to the usual unpredictability of nature and life.”
President Trump, in a tweet celebrating the ruling, said: “Congratulations Pennsylvania. Now we await the decision on the Rigged Ballot Scam, which is so bad for our Country!” He went on to retweet more than 20 references to the story.
The governor’s office issued a statement, saying they are disappointed in the ruling and are looking to appeal the decisions that say the stay-at-home and business shutdown orders were unconstitutional. "There's no sense debating a ruling that will be appealed," Wolf said in response to Judge Stickman’s ruling.
In other words, the Democrat Governor plans to continue to keep Pennsylvania businesses, such as Giovanni’s Barber Shop in Media, starving while he litigates to reclaim the arbitrary and tyrannical power he arrogated to himself under the guise of protecting Pennsylvanians from the Chinese Communist Party’s virus.
Judge Stickman seemed to anticipate Democrat Governor Wolf’s plan to appeal when he wrote, “even a vigilant public may let down its guard over its constitutional liberties only to find that liberties, once relinquished, are hard to recoup and that restrictions — while expedient in the face of an emergency situation — may persist long after immediate danger has passed.”
The Capitol Switchboard is (1-866-220-0044), we ask CHQ readers and friends to call Senator Lindsey Graham, Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to demand there be no let up or slowdown in the confirmation of President Trump’s judicial nominees.
U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf