Wolf’s COVID-19 business closures, limit on gatherings unconstitutional, federal court rules

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2 min readPosted September 14, 2020
This article is shared with LebTown by content partner Spotlight PA.

By Sarah Anne Hughes of Spotlight PA

HARRISBURG — A federal judge has ruled that key components of Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus mitigation strategy are unconstitutional, including a statewide limit on how many Pennsylvanians can gather in one place.

In the 66-page ruling, U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV found that the Wolf administration’s policy limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings to 25 and 250 people, respectively, violates “the right of assembly enshrined in the First Amendment.”

Stickman also found Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine’s stay-at-home orders and business closures, which have since been lifted, to be unconstitutional. Health experts widely considered temporary business closures and limits on operations to be necessary in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

A spokesperson for Wolf said, “We’re aware of the ruling and are reviewing the decision.”

“The court closes this opinion as it began, by recognizing that defendants’ actions at issue here were undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency,” Stickman wrote. “But even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered. …

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