Local attorney explains court’s decision challenging Pa. governor’s COVID shutdown

Coronavirus

Attorney Matt Mangino said the lawsuit is about treating every county the same, even if their COVID-19 risks are vastly different

NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WKBN) – A federal court ruled Monday that Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions are unconstitutional.

The stay at home orders, limiting sizes on gatherings and ordering “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down were all part of the decision.

The 66-page opinion of the court stems from a lawsuit filed by four Western Pennsylvania counties.

Attorney Matt Mangino said the lawsuit is about treating every county the same, even if their COVID-19 risks are vastly different.

“I think part of their argument was that you can’t paint with a broad brush. The emergency may not be of the same magnitude in some counties as in others,” Mangino said.

The court later decided to only have four individuals represent each of the four counties, dismissing the counties as a whole. But Yesterday, Judge William Stickman called the state’s order unconstitutional, even though he acknowledged the decisions were made with the best of intentions.

“What Judge Stickman said is that it is overly broad,” Mangino said.

Citing the Fourteenth Amendment – equal protection of the laws, and the First Amendment – freedom of assembly, is where the shutdown was challenged.

“Decisions with regards to what’s essential and what’s non-essential seems to contravene equal protection,” Magino said. “Even in times of emergency, we can’t relax our vigilance with regards to our individual rights.”

Governor Wolf pushed back against the ruling Tuesday, saying he plans to appeal. That means he could ask for a stay.

“Then, his (the judge’s ) order is not going to be enforceable, Magino said. ” His order that’s saying that the governor acted unconstitutionally will not apply until the appellate court makes a decision on that.”

An appeals decision could take months if the court decided to fast-track the case.

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