Using the argument that the case is now questionable, a federal appeals court has dismissed a judge’s ruling that threw out Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 restrictions. The court said the issue is now moot because statewide mitigation measures have expired and Pennsylvania voters have since constrained a governor’s emergency powers.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that since the Governor´s administration’s stay-at-home orders, limits on crowd size and business closures have been lifted and are no longer in effect, there is “consequently no relief that this court can grant.”
According to 6acbc news, the Philadelphia-based appeals court also noted that state voters in May approved amendments to the state constitution that give lawmakers much more power over disaster declarations.
The appeals court’s order instructed U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV to vacate his nearly year-old ruling that Wolf’s pandemic restrictions were overreaching and arbitrary and violated citizens’ constitutional rights. The appeals court had previously put the ruling on hold while the Wolf administration appealed.
As reported by usnews.com, Republican state lawmakers and many conservatives and business owners had railed against the state’s pandemic restrictions. They considered the measures excessive, inconsistent and unconstitutional. In May, Pennsylvania voters approved amendments to the state constitution that give lawmakers more say over the length and management of a disaster declaration.
“The parties agree that the governor’s orders are no longer in effect and that he has been stripped of his power to unilaterally act in connection with this pandemic,” the three-judge panel wrote. “Thus, the case is moot.”
Other federal and state courts had rejected various challenges to Wolf’s authority to impose public health restrictions in response to the pandemic.
Wolf’s spokesperson, Lyndsay Kensinger, said Wednesday the administration was pleased by the decision to vacate Stickman’s ruling.
On the other hand, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Thomas W. King III, said “we disagree with the decision” and will appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Writing separately, 3rd Circuit Judge Kent Jordan said that while he agreed with the majority there is no longer an active legal dispute to resolve, he noted the Governor´s administration has said the constitutional amendments do not affect a state health secretary’s disease-prevention authority to issue mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders or shut down schools and businesses deemed nonessential.