Pennsylvania coronavirus restrictions deemed unconstitutional, federal judge rules

A federal judge on Monday ruled that some of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictions implemented amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic were¬†unconstitutional — marking a win for businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the forced shutdown.

U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV, who was appointed by President Trump, sided with plaintiffs that included hair salons, drive-in movie theaters, a farmer’s market vendor, a horse trainer and several Republican officeholders in their lawsuit against Wolf, a Democrat, and his health secretary.

The ruling found that Wolf’s restrictions that required people to stay at home, placed size limits on gatherings and ordered “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down were unconstitutional.

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The Wolf administration’s pandemic policies have been overreaching, arbitrary and violated citizens’ constitutional rights, Stickman wrote in his ruling.

The governor’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus “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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Courts had consistently rejected challenges to Wolf’s power to order businesses to close during the pandemic, and many other governors, Republican and Democrat, undertook similar measures as the virus spread across the country.

Wolf has since lifted many of the restrictions, allowing businesses to reopen and canceling a statewide stay-at-home order.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.