Gov. Tom Wolf pushed back against a federal judge who ruled Monday that key components of the governor’s mitigation strategy are “unconstitutional,” including the decision to temporarily shut down businesses and limit how many Pennsylvanians can gather in one place.
Wolf announced he will appeal the judge’s ruling during a press conference Tuesday morning, saying he will seek a stay of the decision while fighting the court order to the highest courts.
“I believe the vast majority of Pennsylvanians understand what we had to do in the beginning was necessary to keep people safe before we had the resources to reopen safely,” Wolf said. “And the vast majority don’t buy into conspiracy theories or fear mongering from the President or Harrisburg Republicans about this virus. They wear masks. They keep distance. They are smart about how they interact with others. They are responsible.”
In his decision Monday, U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV said that while Wolf’s restrictions were “well-intentioned,” they went further than the Constitution prescribes.
“Even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered,” Stickman said. “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.”
He 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.” The Pittsburgh-based judge also found Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine’s stay-at-home and business closure orders to be unconstitutional.
“Contrary to the misinformation from the legislature, we are reopened,” Wolf said. “And we’ve been able to manage outbreaks and mitigate risk successfully, while trying to bring some normalcy to our lives. And right now, Pennsylvania is a leader in the region in how we’ve kept deaths and sickness low.
“Containing the virus is the only way to protect our health and keep our economy going,” continued Wolf. “I want to reassure people that may be nervous or worried about what’s ahead this fall: no matter what, we will find a way to keep Pennsylvanians safe.”