Federal judge rules Gov. Wolf’s shutdown orders were unconstitutional

https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/federal-judge-rules-gov-wolfs-shutdown-orders-were-unconstitutional/

Federal judge rules Gov. Wolf’s shutdown orders were unconstitutional

By Paula Reed Ward

September 14, 2020

A federal judge in Pittsburgh on Monday ruled that orders issued by Gov. Tom Wolf restricting the size of gatherings and closing nonessential businesses to protect against the spread of covid-19 were unconstitutional.

In a statement, Wolf said his office will seek an immediate stay to halt the order and file an appeal.

U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV wrote in his 66-page opinion that, even though the actions taken in the spring by Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine were laudable, they violated the First Amendment right to freedom of assembly, and the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.

“It’s a complete and total victory for the counties, the businesses and the representatives,” said attorney Thomas W. King III, who represented the plaintiffs in the case. “You can’t order the entire population of Pennsylvania to stay at home.”

President Trump, in a tweet celebrating the ruling, said: “Congratulations Pennsylvania. Now we await the decision on the Rigged Ballot Scam, which is so bad for our Country!” He went on to retweet more than 20 references to the story.

Lyndsay Kensinger, a spokeswoman for the governor, said they are disappointed in the decision.

“The actions taken by the administration were mirrored by governors across the country and saved, and continue to save, lives in the absence of federal action,” she said. “This decision is especially worrying as Pennsylvania and the rest of the country are likely to face a challenging time with the possible resurgence of covid-19 and the flu in the fall and winter.”

She noted Monday’s order does not apply to the mandatory mask order or the mandatory work-from-home order previously implemented and still in effect.

The plaintiffs in the case included seven businesses and their owners, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, state Reps. Daryl Metcalfe, Marci Mustello and Tim Bonner, as well as Butler, Fayette, Greene and Washington counties. The businesses included three hair salons, an appliance store, a farm and two drive-in theaters.

The complaint was filed May 7, arguing that the governor’s orders — limiting the size of gatherings, the stay-at-home order and the closure of non-life-sustaining businesses — were unconstitutional.

After reviewing the record, Stickman said he “believes that defendants undertook their actions in a well-intentioned effort to protect Pennsylvanians from the virus. However, good intentions toward a laudable end are not alone enough to uphold governmental action against a constitutional challenge.”

Stickman, who was appointed to the bench in 2019, said “even a vigilant public may let down its guard over its constitutional liberties only to find that liberties, once relinquished, are hard to recoup and that restrictions — while expedient in the face of an emergency situation — may persist long after immediate danger has passed.”

King said the judge’s decision finding gathering limits to be unconstitutional now applies to everyone in Pennsylvania.

He said the finding that the stay-at-home order was unconstitutional means it can never be repeated.

As for the closure of nonessential businesses, King believes that will open the door to business owners filing lawsuits against the state seeking relief, or compensation, for their losses during the closure.

“Our goal in bringing this action was that our county commissioners in Butler believed these orders were unconstitutional and unconstitutionally affected residents of their county.”

Thus far, in Pennsylvania, 7,869 people have died from the virus, with 145,063 testing positive. Nationally, there have been nearly 200,000 deaths.

Bruce Antkowiak, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches law at Saint Vincent College, said Stickman’s opinion is not precedent-setting for the other federal courts, but does carry persuasive value and likely will be cited in other jurisdictions where these issues are being argued.

“You could argue to another federal judge this federal judge’s decision is sound and reasonable,” said Antkowiak, who had Stickman as a student at Duquesne University Law School. “It is not a nationwide prohibition.” Stickman graduated from law school in 2005.

Antkowiak called it an unusual decision for a federal judge to make, given that the issue revolves around state regulatory authority.

In testimony for the case, King said, there was no medical evidence presented relative to the spread of covid-19, and Levine did not testify and instead sent a representative to do so.

King said he posed the question — once the stay-at-home order was lifted in early June — what establishments in Allegheny County were responsible for the increased spread of the virus, and no one could answer.

“You can’t just shut down American society,” King said.

In his opinion, Stickman agreed.

“There is no question that this country has faced, and will face, emergencies of every sort,” Stickman wrote. “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.”

Stickman wrote that the Constitution “sets certain lines that may not be crossed, even in an emergency.”

“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,” Stickman wrote. “They have never been used in response to any other disease in our history. They were not recommendations made by the CDC.”

Stickman wrote that the defendants never had a set definition for what constituted a “life-sustaining” business, and instead the definition remained in flux.

Stickman wrote that there also was no precedent for the closure of nonessential businesses.

“Never before has the government taken a direct action which shuttered so many businesses and sidelined so many employees and rendered their ability to operate, and to work, solely dependent on government discretion,” he said.

Stickman wrote that the right of citizens to support themselves in their chosen occupation “is deeply rooted in our nation’s legal and cultural history.”

“A total shutdown of a business with no end-date and the specter of additional, future shutdowns can cause critical damage to a business’s ability to survive, to an employee’s ability to support him/herself, and adds a government-induced cloud of uncertainty to the usual unpredictability of nature and life.”

In federal court in Philadelphia, a group of business owners filed a similar lawsuit against the state, also in May.

On Aug. 31, U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick allowed a claim on equal protection — why some businesses were permitted to remain open while others were not — to continue. But he also ruled that the plaintiffs’ due process claim could not stand.

In a 10-page opinion, Surrick wrote that the right to operate a business is not actionable in a substantive due process claim.

“The business closure orders imposed temporary restraints on businesses. They did not deprive any individuals of their right to pursue a particular line of work,” Surrick wrote. “Moreover, even if there were a deprivation of one’s right to work, any deprivation was temporary, and the case law strongly suggests that substantive due process only extends to situations in which there is some degree of permanence to the loss of liberty or property.”

The complaint in that case did not include a First Amendment claim relative to mass gatherings.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security who practices in Pittsburgh, said, traditionally, public health interventions are supposed to be the least restrictive and most targeted as possible, based on evidence.

“Some of the blanket orders issued early on were not necessarily targeted,” he said. “They have to be really limited in scope and tied to data that is understandable by everybody.”

The state should have defined the time frame that restrictions would be put in place, explained the metrics that would be used to reevaluate and explained what would trigger reevaluation, Adalja said.

For example, he said, if the shutdown order was temporary so the state could scale up testing and the hiring of contact tracers, while fortifying local health departments and ensuring hospitals were well-prepared, that would have been one thing.

“In Pennsylvania, none of that really happened,” he said. “It was difficult for us to understand what was driving certain restrictions.”

Adalja cited New York state as an example of using data to drive decisions. There, metrics such as ICU capacity and the number of contact tracers in place were used to decide when things would reopen.

It wasn’t a mystery, he said.

Now, with the court’s decision declaring Wolf’s orders to be unconstitutional, Adalja said, even restrictions that were justified in the beginning — like those prohibiting mass gatherings — could be swept up.

“A mass gathering can easily overwhelm contact tracing at the county or state level,” Adalja said.

There is data that shows how the virus can spread in those settings.

“I am worried if you have mass gatherings — and people pack Heinz Field — you will get chains of transmission,” he said. “Mass gatherings are one thing that can spiral things out of control.”

Although Monday’s orders apply to state-level action, Adalja said municipalities and counties still have the ability to intervene for public health reasons — which means they can implement their own restrictions on crowd sizes for gatherings.

Adalja said, in the future, county health departments can no longer be ignored — that they must be fortified with infectious disease doctors, contract tracers, infrastructure and funding.

“Stay-at-home orders were because of a failure to address those things,” he said. “We need to really think about this as we move forward for this pandemic and the next pandemic.”

September 15, 2020. Tags: , , , , , , . COVID-19, Police state. Leave a comment.

Totalitarian Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf just forced my dental hygienist to cancel my 6 month teeth cleaning!

By Daniel Alman (aka Dan from Squirrel Hill)

May 18, 2020

I’m 49 years old. I’ve lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, my entire life. I’ve been getting my teeth cleaned at the same dental practice ever since I was a little kid in the 1970s.

My 6 month teeth cleaning had been scheduled for tomorrow.

But they just called to tell me that it has been canceled, because they are “not allowed” to do teeth cleaning at this point in time.

There are really only four people who should have any role in the decision making for this: my dentist, the dental hygienist who cleans my teeth, the receptionist who answers the phone and schedules appointments, and myself.

I don’t even have or want dental insurance. I pay out of my own pocket, and I prefer it that way, because I don’t want an insurance company telling me what I can or can’t do wit my teeth, or deciding which dental practice I can or can’t go to.

This is the United States of America.

This is supposed to be a free country.

The government is not supposed to be deciding when I can or can’t get my teeth cleaned.

It’s my body and my teeth, and getting my teeth cleaned should be my own choice.

I’m a libertarian. I think abortion should be legal. (I know that a lot of my Republican readers will disagree with me on this issue, and that’s fine.)

Although I do think abortion should be legal, I am very, very glad that my own mother did not abort me.

Furthermore,  I do not see how a healthy woman aborting a healthy baby constitutes “health care.”

Also, I think it’s extremely hypocritical that when Governor Wolf banned elective medical procedures, he gave an exemption to abortion.

Democrats who always say, “My body, my choice,” only make that claim when it comes to abortion.

Democrats think the rest of a person’s body should be controlled by the government.

These hypocrite Democrats won’t let me get my teeth cleaned.

But they will let me buy lottery tickets (which I never do, because I understand math).

And they will also let me buy cigarettes (which I also never do, because I think it’s gross and disgusting, and also because I don’t want to get lung cancer).

So these hypocrite Democrats will let me get my teeth all dirty and messed up with cigarettes, but they will not let me to go the dentist to have all that dirt and grime and filth removed from my teeth. What kind of logic is this?

Governor Wolf’s original lockdown order was for two weeks.

The alleged purpose of the lockdown was to flatten the curve, so that the hospitals would not be overwhelmed.

The curve has been flattened.

The hospitals have not been overwhelmed.

As of May 6, 2020, only 7% of Pennsylvania’s hospital beds were being used to treat COVID-19 patients.

However, Governor Wolf continues with the lockdown anyway.

This proves that the lockdown is a scam.

This lockdown has exposed who the true fascists are.

Members of Antifa are perfectly willing to prevent innocent, peaceful, law abiding conservatives from speaking on college campuses.

But when the real fascists (such as Governor Wolf, and Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer) come along, the Antifa protesters are nowhere to be found, heard, or seen.

If you want to read more examples of why the lockdown sucks, I encourage you to read this other blog post that I wrote: Here are 65 reasons why I’m against the COVID-19 lockdowns

Note from Daniel Alman: If you like this blog post that I wrote, you can buy my books from amazon, and/or donate to me via PayPal, using the links below:

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Note from Daniel Alman: I’d like to recommend that you visit Whatfinger News. It’s a really awesome website.

May 18, 2020. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Abortion, Antifa, COVID-19, Police state. 3 comments.

Pennsylvania Allows Planned Parenthood to Perform Abortions Despite Elective Surgery Ban

I’m a libertarian. I think abortion should be legal.

I’m against banning any elective procedures.

What I don’t like here is the hypocrisy:

 

https://freebeacon.com/coronavirus/pennsylvania-allows-planned-parenthood-to-perform-abortions-despite-elective-surgery-ban/

Pennsylvania Allows Planned Parenthood to Perform Abortions Despite Elective Surgery Ban

Planned Parenthood Keystone has shut down all services except abortion

March 31, 2020

Planned Parenthood clinics in Pennsylvania have eliminated all services except for abortion in the wake of a statewide ban on elective surgeries meant to preserve scarce medical resources amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Democratic governor Tom Wolf issued a directive ordering the shut down of all businesses “that are not life sustaining” on March 20, and a guidance from the state government prohibits elective procedures performed by health care services and hospitals. Despite these directives, Planned Parenthood Keystone, which serves central and eastern Pennsylvania, announced it would remain open “for abortion services only” while shutting down its other operations.

Hospitals are facing shortages of medical supplies necessary to deal with the pandemic as the number of coronavirus patients drastically increases across the state and country. The abortion clinics also requested donations of personal protective equipment, including “hand sanitizer, home-sewn masks, shoe covers, and surgical hats,” so they could continue to perform abortions.

The order, issued on March 20, came after the state’s health secretary urged doctors and patients to consider postponing noncritical surgeries. The state’s largest abortion provider has ignored the directive and continued to proceed with abortions, even as it stopped providing routine exams and other services. Planned Parenthood did not respond to a request for comment.

“The paradox is just striking, here we’re making an exception for life-sustaining procedures and yet an exception to that is this one medical procedure that’s life-ending,” Tom Brejcha, president and chief legal counsel for the Thomas More Society, told the Washington Free Beacon.

Pennsylvania had 31,260 abortions in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion think tank. More than 19,000 of those procedures likely required in-clinic services, as medication abortions accounted for 39 percent of all abortions in the United States in 2017, the most recent numbers made available by the institute.

Wolf has been an outspoken ally of abortion supporters while in office. In October 2019, he stated his intention to veto any pro-life legislation that came across his desk after Republicans in the state legislature introduced a “heartbeat bill” banning abortions after six weeks. Planned Parenthood has contributed $27,500 to Wolf’s campaign coffers since 2014, according to state campaign finance records.

Wolf’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Pennsylvania is not the only state dealing with issues surrounding abortion providers in the midst of the pandemic. Texas included abortion clinics in a statewide order postponing surgeries and nonessential medical procedures. A federal judge blocked the order on Monday, saying it prevented women “from exercising what the Supreme Court has declared is their fundamental constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus is viable.”

Pro-life groups ripped Wolf for failing to take action against abortion clinics when hospitals and other facilities are struggling to deal with the pandemic.

“It is unconscionable that Governor Wolf has allowed elective abortions to proceed during this crisis when all resources are needed for essential medical procedures,” said Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement.

An open letter from the Pennsylvania Family Institute called on Wolf to specifically address continued abortion procedures.

“Abortion is an elective procedure that should not be permitted at the peak of the coronavirus crisis,” the letter states. “With abortions there is always the risk that some women will have complications from the procedure that will need emergency hospital care, which will only further drain our overstretched health care system.”

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said lawmakers should apply the ban on elective procedures across the board, rather than protecting the interests of abortion clinics.

“Killing unborn children isn’t health care and certainly doesn’t provide necessary medical help or assistance for coronavirus,” Mancini said. “At a time when medical staff and resources are spread thin, it is very disappointing to see politicians use this vulnerable moment in our country’s history to play politics and advocate for abortion.”

Several counties in Pennsylvania are under stay-at-home orders as the number of coronavirus cases in the state passed 4,000.

April 23, 2020. Tags: , , , , , . Abortion, COVID-19. Leave a comment.