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County of Butler v. Wolf (U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, September 14, 2020) – The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled that several provisions contained in executive orders issued by Pennsylvania Governor Wolf and Secretary of Health Levine to address the COVID-19 pandemic were unconstitutional. The court found that: (1) the stay-at-home order, applicable across the Commonwealth and subsequently lifted on a county-by-county basis, violated Substantive Due Process under the 14th Amendment; (2) the provision limiting the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings violated the 1st Amendment right to assemble; and (3) closing “non-life-sustaining” businesses violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment. The court was particularly troubled by classifications of various businesses allowing a big-box store to remain open while closing smaller business that sell similar products (for example, furniture stores). It found that the Governor was well-intentioned and his goals laudable, but Constitutional liberty interests are not diminished in times of emergency. Read the full opinion here.  

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – October 15, 2020.

View all cases under “Constitutional Rights & The Public’s Health.”