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Butler v. Wolf
Short summary of USDJ William Stickman’s Sept. 14, 2020 opinion finding Pennsylvania’s Covid stay-at-home and business-closure orders unconstitutional.
Below is a section from a Sept. 2020 SubStack post I did last year and then deleted when I shut down my site.
I’m working on a long-form piece about Stickman’s ruling, which Governor Tom Wolf appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, causing Stickman to issue a stay, which allowed Wolf to continue arbitrarily locking healthy Pennsylvanians in their homes and destroying healthy Pennsylvanians’ small businesses for the past six months.
The Third Circuit process is finally moving again, and the appellees’ brief about why the case is not moot — the original executive orders have been unilaterally amended, suspended, reimposed and re-amended repeatedly since last summer — is due on Monday.
The long piece isn’t done, so this is a short orientation for the meantime.
…I'm also happy about a recent federal judge decision in a Pennsylvania case (Butler v. Wolf) finding that the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders and business closure orders - which remain in effect although temporarily "suspended" - are unconstitutional.
The judge acknowledged that in the early weeks, while information was still being collected, it made sense.
But he emphasized that six months along, having arbitrary, unwritten, unilateral, unreviewable, unappealable orders in place controlling the daily movement of every Pennsylvania citizen, cannot in any way be reconciled with a constitutional republic that protects the individual liberties of Americans.
Governor Wolf has appealed to Third Circuit, so it may get overturned, but I hope Third Circuit upholds it.
The memorandum opinion is a really interesting read, especially for the details that came out in discovery, about how the policies were set up -
by task forces in Governor Wolf's office whose members have never been identified;
at meetings that were closed to the public and for which no minutes were kept;
establishing enforceable rules about essential and non-essential businesses which were amended at least 10 times;
based on criteria that were never written down;
that were never subject to legislative debate or ratification;
that virtually always favored big-box stores over small businesses;
that have no exit plan or end point;
and that were only appealable for a couple of weeks in late March, before the overwhelming number of waiver requests prompted the government to simply close the waiver process.
Result, according to Yelp and other reporting, is that huge numbers of small businesses have already closed permanently, or will close permanently in the next few months.
The judge's opinion is also interesting for its historical information: that even in the Spanish flu and the 1957 Hong Kong flu, nothing even approaching the draconian "new normal" of this year has ever been attempted by American federal, state and local governments.
Lockdowns in China are one thing, since it doesn't have a government with any semblance of respect for individual liberty.
But America is not China, and the court order suggests that, at least within the judicial branch, American legal and civil rights traditions may finally be re-emerging to challenge the panic-induced policies driven by faulty early death projections and copycat behavior among world governments, that have yet to be rescinded and continue to do so much damage above and beyond the harms of the virus itself…