Judge Stickman & Ben Franklin

Judge Stickman & Ben Franklin

U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV concluded on Monday that several of the Wolf administration’s key restrictive policies imposed on the public in the name of battling coronavirus were unconstitutional.


To wit, “stay-at-home orders far exceeded any reasonable claim, … limits on the size of gatherings violate the (First Amendment) right of assembly and that business shutdowns violated the (14th Amendment’s) due process clause of the Constitution (in addition to the equal protection clause) by exercising unprecedented power over every business, business owner and employee in the commonwealth.”

The Wolf administration called the ruling “disappointing” and indicated it would seek a stay of the order pending appeal.

That is, it seeks to further stay Pennsylvanians’ constitutional rights. More’s the pity. But it’s par for the Wolf course of do as he says, not as he does.

We commend for your attention several key and unfiltered passages from the Pittsburgh judge’s ruling:

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“It bears repeating: After six months, there is no plan to return to a situation where there are no restrictions imposed upon the people of the commonwealth.”

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

“Broad population-wide lockdowns are such a dramatic inversion of the concept of liberty in a free society as to be nearly presumptively unconstitutional unless the government can truly demonstrate that they burden no more liberty than is reasonably necessary to achieve an important government end.”

“In an emergency, even a vigilant public many 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.”

The words of U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV.

Here are some concluding words, from one Benjamin Franklin that, perhaps, Gov. Wolf has forgotten:

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).