PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A federal judge has struck down some of Pennsylvania’s coronavirus restrictions as unconstitutional, including the closure of non-life-sustaining businesses. What does that mean as we go into fall, amid a potential resurgence of COVID-19?
The federal judge ruled forcing businesses to shut down entirely and Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order are both unconstitutional. Some business owners say they’ve been waiting to hear a ruling like this for months.
“It actually brings tears to my eyes,” Nichole Missino said.
That’s how Missino, owner of Giovanni’s Barber Shop in Media, Delaware County, reacted Monday after a federal judge agreed with her that Wolf’s business shutdown order was unconstitutional.
You might remember Giovanni’s defied the shutdown order amid the pandemic and reopened in May.
“We didn’t have any money coming in from anywhere. It was awful, we were closed for 10 weeks, my barbers were starving,” Missino said.
The judge ruled Wolf’s stay-at-home order was also unconstitutional.
In a 60-plus page opinion, the judge wrote: “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.
“A lot of the things he put in place don’t have to be in place,” State Sen. Tom Killion said.
The stay-at-home and business shutdown orders the judge ruled as unconstitutional have already been suspended. But the judge did not make a ruling on restaurant restrictions, which are still in place.
The owner of Quotations Restaurant in Media calls some of the rules arbitrary.
“My customers are good customers. They’re not gonna walk into a crowded restaurant with 150 people here,” Mike Burke said.
The ruling also does not touch on the Wolf Administration’s mask order. Kevin Levy is a Center City-based attorney.
“The court didn’t say that they were constitutional. The court just didn’t answer those questions. I believe there are several other lawsuits out right now asking those questions,” said Levy, with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP.
The governor’s office sent a statement, saying they are disappointed in the ruling and are looking to appeal the decisions that say the stay-at-home and business shutdown orders were unconstitutional. You can read the complete statement below:
“The administration is disappointed with the result and will seek a stay of the decision and file an appeal. 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. 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. Today’s court ruling is limited to the business closure order and the stay at home orders issued in March and were later suspended, as well as the indoor and outdoor gathering limitations. This ruling does not impact any of the other mitigation orders currently in place including, but not limited to the targeted mitigation orders announced in July, mandatory telework, mandatory mask order, worker safety order, and the building safety order.”