Constitution Prevails Over PA Lockdown
Federal judge: "Even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered."
Statewide 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 in striking down Pennsylvania Democrat Governor Tom Wolf’s onerous order closing all “non-life sustaining businesses” to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Back in May, a coalition of federal and state representatives, counties, and small businesses sued Wolf and Dr. “Rachel” Levine, Pennsylvania’s health secretary and [the nation’s only “transgendered” individual in such a position of (ahem) scientific expertise. “The science takes time,” Levine, born Richard but posing as a female, said earlier this year while defending the lockdowns. But, as Mark Alexander wrote at the time, “If Levine can’t produce ‘the science’ to show he has transitioned genders, that tends to undermine his credibility when dictating what Pennsylvanians can and can’t do without likewise producing the science.”
As for the court ruling, Stickman stuck to the Constitution. Even after some of Pennsylvania’s restrictions had been eased, his declaratory judgment says “(1) that the congregate gathering limits imposed by defendants’ mitigation orders violate the right of assembly enshrined in the First Amendment; (2) that the stay-at-home and business closure components of defendants’ orders violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) that the business closure components of defendants’ orders violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
While Stickman, an appointee of Donald Trump, acknowledged that Wolf’s order was “undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency,” he concluded that “even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered.” Moreover, “Good intentions toward a laudable end are not alone enough to uphold governmental action against a constitutional challenge. Indeed, the greatest threats to our system of constitutional liberties may arise when the ends are laudable and the intent is good — especially in time of emergency.”
“The liberties protected by the Constitution are not fair-weather freedoms — in place when times are good but able to be cast aside in times of trouble,” Stickman elaborated. “There is no question that this country has faced, and will face, emergencies of every sort. 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. 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.”
“Rather,” he concluded, “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.”
This ruling does several things beyond the immediate implications: It reveals that Democrats will exceed their authority whenever the fit takes them. It shows that Trump’s remaking of the judiciary is critical and must continue. And it should remind all Americans that we live not under the whim of any elected official but under the Rule of Law enshrined in the Constitution. That will have implications for other governors who insist on continuing varying levels of lockdown.