Containment measures in Pennsylvania “unconstitutional”

(New York) The Democratic governor of Pennsylvania has taken “unconstitutional” measures in the face of the pandemic, by limiting the right to gatherings and by declaring certain economic activities “non-essential”, a federal judge in Pennsylvania said Monday .

France Media Agency

The containment measures in this state, announced at the start of the pandemic in March, had been sued in May by several elected Republicans and small entrepreneurs – including owners of hairdressing salons or an owner of a stable of racehorses, who felt the viability of their business was compromised by these measures.

In his judgment made public Monday, Judge William Stickman agreed with them: he considered that, even if the governor’s decisions were based on “good intentions”, that did not authorize him to infringe on “Fundamental freedoms” of the population.

In particular, he deemed “arbitrary” the distinctions made between economic activities deemed “essential” or “non-essential”, stressing that no “objective definition” had ever been provided.

“The Constitution sets certain limits which cannot be crossed, even in an emergency”, wrote in its judgment of 66 pages on judge, appointed by Donald Trump in 2019. “The Constitution cannot accept a ‘new normal’ where the basic freedoms of the population are subordinated to measures of indefinite duration to control an emergency situation,” he added.

Governor Tom Wolf has since lifted a large part of the restrictions incriminated in this matter, while the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 7800, now appears to be there under control.

But certain restrictions remain, in particular limiting the capacity of bars and restaurants and limiting gatherings to 25 people indoors, and 250 outdoors.

The American courts have since the spring been inundated with complaints denouncing the restrictions linked to the pandemic, without responding uniformly: in May, a judge had notably invalidated the extension of confinement in Wisconsin while another validated it in Michigan.

When contacted, Governor Wolf’s office did not immediately react to this decision.

Pennsylvania, which voted for Donald Trump by a narrow majority in 2016, is seen as one of the states that can switch back for Democrats in the election next November.

There were many demonstrations against the containment measures there in the spring.