The ‘unconstitutionalists’ prevail again

The ‘unconstitutionalists’ prevail again

Your constitutional rights can be a relative moot point. At least that’s what a tribunal of a federal appeals court has ruled regarding some of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s liberty-traducing and economy-killing emergency orders imposed at the height of 2020’s coronavirus pandemic.

It was last year that a consortium of plaintiffs – from business owners to elected and appointed officials – sued the Wolf administration arguing it had imposed draconian, illegal restrictions on the public.

And, you’ll recall, last September, U.S. District Court Judge William S. Stickman IV, sitting in Pittsburgh, agreed:

Orders restricting the size of gatherings – unconstitutional. It was a First Amendment violation, Stickman found.

Orders requiring Keystone State residents to stay at home – unconstitutional. It stripped residents of substantive due process, the judge said.

Orders requiring “non-essential” businesses to close – unconstitutional. It was another violation of substantive due process and, also, the concept of equal protection under the law because its basis was irrational.

Of course, the unconstitutionalists in the Wolf administration appealed. And they found in the 3rd Circuit’s three-judge panel a fealty to the growing trend of judicial tap-dancing.

Because the clearly unconstitutional acts of Pennsylvania government officials had either since been suspended or legislatively barred, the original claim was “moot.”

“Moot”?! That’s daft. The Constitution was drawn and quartered. The peoples’ rights were abused. But never mind the serious injury – mortal to some – that “leaders” inflicted with their plenary abuse?

Instead of placing an exclamation point on Judge Stickman’s ruling – affirming it and, thus, sending another strong message to future would-be unconstitutionalists — the tribunal only emboldened serial lawlessness.

After all, the appeals court’s ruling is nothing less than a license to shred our rights until challenged, then be absolved by the courts for backing down. It’s like a bank robber being forgiven for his crime because he returns the money.

“Mootness” has become the last refuge of an American judicial system lacking the fortitude to call out the Constitution’s disembowelment. And that’s not merely sad or tragic – it’s despicable.

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