Pennsylvania Lockdown Lawsuit Victory May Cure a Plague of Pandemic Restrictions
A federal judge’s ruling that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic lockdown orders are unconstitutional offers hope not just to the beleaguered residents of that state, but to all Americans suffering under similar impositions. With public health-inspired restrictions weighing on civil liberties and the ability to make a living, pending lawsuits in many states may offer the best chance for restoring personal freedom and dragging the country out of its economic doldrums.
“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,” wrote U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV in his September 14 decision, in a case brought by a coalition of cities, counties and businesses. “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.”
In particular, Stickman found that limits on gatherings run afoul of First Amendment protections for assembly rights, stay-at-home orders violate the substantive due process guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment, and arbitrary business closures violate the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
“The fact is that the lockdowns imposed across the United States in early 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented in the history of our Commonwealth and our Country,” the judge added. “They have never been used in response to any other disease in our history.”
“There’s no sense debating a ruling that will be appealed,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom responded in a statement that pleads necessity while entirely side-stepping constitutional issues. “But what’s not up for debate is that our early and decisive action saved lives.”
Except that not just the constitutionality but the effectiveness of lockdowns is up for debate.
“Lockdowns, despite the huge costs they entailed, have not had any obvious payoff in terms of fewer COVID-19 deaths,” Reason‘s Jacob Sullum noted this week after reviewing international examples and recent research. “It would not be the first tim
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