U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman has ruled the shutdown orders issued by Governor Wolf to be arbitrary and unconstitutional. In a very informative 66 page decision, the court lays out the overreaching, arbitrary and unconstitutional nature of the governor’s treatment of businesses along with the waivers granted to some businesses and not others.
Courts are generally willing to give temporary deference to temporary measures aimed at remedying a fleeting crisis. … Examples include natural disasters, civil unrest, or other man-made emergencies. There is no question, as Justice Alito reasoned in Calvary Chapel, that courts may provide state and local officials greater deference when making time-sensitive decisions in the maelstrom of an emergency. But that deference cannot go on forever. It is no longer March. It is now September and the record makes clear that Defendants have no anticipated end-date to their emergency interventions. Courts surely may be willing to give in a fleeting crisis. But here, the duration of the crisis—in which days have turned into weeks and weeks into months—already exceeds natural disasters or other episodic emergencies and its length remains uncertain. … Faced with ongoing interventions of indeterminate length, “suspension” of normal constitutional levels of scrutiny may ultimately lead to the suspension of constitutional liberties themselves. (emphasis added)
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. But even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered. 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. 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. 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. Rather, the Constitution sets certain lines that may not be crossed, even in an emergency. Actions taken by Defendants crossed those lines. It is the duty of the Court to declare those actions unconstitutional. Thus, consistent with the reasons set forth above, the Court will enter judgment in favor of Plaintiffs.
Full text of the decision Highly recommended, it is an excellent read!