Opinion | Not OK, Doomer

At last, the federal judiciary is restraining the devastating lockdowns imposed by state and local officials in the name of public health. Judge William Stickman of the Western District of Pennsylvania has struck down Gov. Tom Wolf’s restrictions on businesses he claimed were “non-life-sustaining,” as well as limits the Democrat governor placed on gatherings. According to Judge Stickman, the lockdown rules violated both the First and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Are we all essential now and free to peaceably assemble? Daniel Patrick Sheehan, Peter Hall and Jon Harris report for the Allentown Morning Call:

“Good intentions toward a laudable end are not enough to uphold governmental action against a constitutional challenge,” U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV wrote in a 66-page ruling that said Gov. Tom Wolf’s actions violated constitutional guarantees of the rights to free assembly, due process and equal protection.

Max Mitchell of the Legal Intelligencer adds:

“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,” Stickman said. “Rather, the constitution sets certain lines that may not be crossed, even in an emergency. Actions taken by defendants crossed those lines.”

Specifically, Stickman determined the limitations on gatherings were arbitrary and not tailored in a sufficiently narrow manner, and that the decisions Wolf’s administration made regarding which businesses were “life-sustaining” were also arbitrary and changed several times throughout the pandemic.

“The court recognizes that defendants were facing a pressing situation to formulate a plan to address the nascent COVID-19 pandemic when they took the unprecedented step of sua sponte determining which businesses were ‘life-sustaining’ and which were ‘non-life-sustaining,’” Stickman said. “But in making that choice, they were not merely coming up with a draft of some theoretical white paper, but rather, determining who could work and who could not, who would earn a paycheck and who would be unemployed—and for some—which businesses would live, and which would die.”

Gov. Wolf’s office says he will appeal. Some of the restrictions affected by the ruling have since been lifted, but the judge’s ruling prevents them from being reimposed at the discretion of the governor.

Bob Mayo at Pitttsburgh’s WTAE reports: