Appeals Court Allows Pennsylvania Governor To Restore Pandemic Restrictions After Federal Judge Ruled State’s Orders Unconstitutional

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Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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An appeals court ruled that Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf can restore pandemic restrictions after a federal judge determined that the state’s orders were unconstitutional, WPXI reported.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that Wolf’s administration may enforce the size limit on gatherings, putting U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV’s ruling on hold, according to WPXI.

Stickman ruled in favor of multiple plaintiffs who alleged that the governor and Secretary of Health Rachel Levine’s restrictions were arbitrary and violated constitutional rights Sept. 22. Various businesses including hair salons and drive-in theaters won the favorable ruling. Multiple counties and Republican lawmakers were also plaintiffs, although the judge dismissed the county governments from the case.

The state may once again enforce size limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings while it appeals the lower court order. The limit is 25 people for indoor events and 250 people for outdoor events.

“It’s back in place,” Wolf said according to WPXI. “We have to be careful about how we gather together, and I think that’s the important thing. At the same time, we’ve got to make sure that we’re being reasonable, realistic about how we do things,” said Wolf, speaking after the appeals court issued its ruling. “We’ll continue to look to make sure the guidelines we have in place are reasonable.”

After Stickman’s ruling, many Pennsylvania school districts began allowing more fans in the stands of high school football games and other athletic events. Wolf said he’s working with school districts “to do what we can to recognize the contexts that are different in every community,” according to WPXI.

Stickman denied Wolf’s motion to stay a week after the ruling, writing that “there is no just reason for delay.” Wolf said they would appeal the ruling, writing that “the split in authority created by the Court’s opinion makes it difficult, if not impossible, for (the Wolf administration) to manage the pandemic effectively and has created confusion and uncertainty throughout Pennsylvania.” (RELATED: Judge Denies Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s Motion To Stay After Deeming State’s Coronavirus Restrictions Unconstitutional)

The office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro asked the Philadelphia-based appeals court to intervene after Stickman declined the motion to stay, claiming that the gathering limits and other restrictions are “life-saving mitigation tools” against the virus.

Stickman noted in the ruling that while the Wolf administration’s actions “were undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency,” that “even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered.”