US District Court Rules PA Gov Wolf’s COVID Lockdown Is Unconstitutional

P. Gardner Goldsmith | September 15, 2020
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In a normal world, where, due to repeated tests, we can say with strong confidence that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, judges sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution would instantly find state (and, if they were instituted, federal) COVID19 lockdowns unconstitutional. Shutdowns of businesses, mask mandates, and mandatory quarantines breach most of the Bill of Rights and the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But this isn’t a normal world, and, while it’s likely that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, surety about basic, manifest facts and how agents of the state will rule on them becomes less likely, day after day.

So it’s nice to offer a glimmer of hope. Hope that the glaringly obvious which was missed by many governors, state politicians, and their bureaucratic sycophants, is being acknowledged by people on the bench.

Out of the Federal District Court for Western Pennsylvania comes this important ruling: PA Governor Tom Wolf’s months-long tyrannical COVID19 lockdown is unconstitutional. His arbitrary decisions about “essential and non-essential” businesses are unconstitutional. His restrictions on gatherings are unconstitutional.

Of course, in a normal world, Wolf and his gang of tax-paid arm-twisters would know such actions are shameful and obscene.

As Christian Britschgi explains for Reason:

Population-wide lockdown orders are ‘such a dramatic inversion of the concept of liberty in a free society as to be nearly presumptively unconstitutional’ wrote U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV.

The decision comes after a key lawsuit over Wolf’s myriad transgressions of both the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions, transgressions that began many months ago.

In May, Wolf and Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine were sued by a coalition of counties, federal and state elected representatives, and several small businesses over the state's coronavirus restrictions. The restrictions included a shelter-in-place order requiring people to stay in their homes, a closure of all ‘non-life-sustaining’ businesses, and bans on gatherings of more than 25 people indoors, or 250 people for outdoor gatherings.

And while he and his thuggish agents of the state threatened businesses with “license” revocation, and kindly offered to hand out fines to people who didn’t comply with his edicts, Wolf had the ever-lovin’ charm to produce a video directed at the folks he was keeping locked-up at home, a video suggesting they “read a book.”

Evidently, he might have spent his time more wisely by reading the US and PA constitutions, since both not only supposedly protect the rights he trampled, they both prohibit the government from infringing on the obligation of private contract – which means government-imposed business lockdowns are…


And, writes Britschgi:

The plaintiffs collectively argued that the governor's restrictions on gatherings violated the First Amendment's protections of free speech and assembly. The shelter-in-place order and closure of businesses, they contended, were a violation of their rights to substantive due process under the 14th Amendment.

In fact, the number of constitutional violations is vast. Not only has Wolf violated the previously mentioned “rules” of the U.S. Constitution (and state constitution), he has broken the Fourth Amendment by claiming he can have police enter businesses and churches without warrants, broken the Fifth Amendment prohibition against deprivation of life, liberty or property without “due process” (rephrased in the Fourteenth Amendment), the Sixth Amendment promise of a jury trial for state accusations of wrongdoing, and the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, there can be no punishment if there has not been a trial and finding of guilt.

The fact that Wolf’s actions were Executive Branch “orders” is mere more unconstitutional window-dressing on the core fact that, even if the PA legislature had passed laws mandating the lockdowns, the laws would, also, have been unconstitutional for all the reasons stated above.


Stickman similarly ruled that Wolf's order closing non-life sustaining businesses was also overly broad and arbitrary, and deprived Pennsylvanians of their right to earn a living under the 14th Amendment.

It remains to be seen whether Wolf will read this ruling and re-think his position. After all, he has so many “books” to read during his lockdown. And heck, his neighbor, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy told FoxNew’s Tucker Carlson that he wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when he imposed his lockdowns, so Wolf isn’t alone in his toweringly insulting behavior.

Perhaps residents of those states who have seen their businesses destroyed and their lives turned upside-down by their edicts can see now that they aren’t alone, that, at least for now, there’s a federal judge who sees reality and knows the so-called “rules”.

And perhaps they’ll contact Wolf’s offices and demand an end to his tyranny.