Judge Declines to Allow Pennsylvania Governor to Reimpose Limits on Gatherings

September 22, 2020 Updated: September 22, 2020

A Pennsylvania judge on Tuesday said he would not let Gov. Tom Wolf reimpose limits on gatherings.

U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV ruled that Wolf administration officials didn’t succeed in demonstrating they’re likely to prevail on appeal.

Stickman, a Trump appointee, ruled last week that Wolf’s restrictions ordering people to stay at home and limit gatherings were unconstitutional.

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,” he wrote at the time.

Wolf sought a stay of the ruling, but Stickman said his administration didn’t present information that would warrant a stay.

The primary focus of the stay request was the determination that the imposition of number limits on gatherings violated the First Amendment.

Stickman noted that he didn’t say the government could not impose limitations on gatherings, but that the First Amendment doesn’t permit specific numeric caps on some gatherings while imposing a limitation based on general occupancy on others.

“Defendants did not adduce any evidence that would explain and justify treating social, cultural, political, and other similar gatherings differently from the commercial gatherings covered by a percentage of occupancy-based limitation,” the judge wrote in the new 15-page ruling.

“For example, nobody explained why hundreds may gather indoors to shop (the larger the facility, the more people permitted), dozens may dine in a restaurant (again, the larger the restaurant, the more will be permitted), but no more than twenty-five may attend an indoor lecture, a speech or a wedding.”

Epoch Times Photo
Nicolette Holness of Bismarck, N.D., takes a selfie while visiting Gettysburg, Penn., on Aug. 11, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Wolf, a Democrat, told reporters on Tuesday that he plans on appealing Stickman’s ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Since the stay was turned down, then it sounds like, at least for the moment, I guess that court ruling stands,” he said, when asked whether gatherings of 500 are now legal.

“You ought to be careful when you get together. And if you get together in bigger and bigger numbers, you’re leaving yourself open to bigger and bigger likelihood that you’re going to catch the disease,” he added.

Pennsylvania Health Director Rachel Levine said such gatherings were not okay.

“It’s not okay. There are consequences to people’s actions,” Levine added.

Wolf’s mandates were made amid the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is a disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which is believed to spread through close contact and severely affects a small percentage of patients.

Before the ruling earlier this month, Pennsylvania officials had said crowds of over 25 inside and 250 outside weren’t allowed.

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