Is a Shut Down Legal? Pennsylvania Might Find Out
Governor Wolf has ordered broad shut downs across the state of Pennsylvania in an effort to slow the spread of the Corona virus. The question has been raised, are the governor's orders legal? Along with the the fight against the Corona virus, Pennsylvania might find itself in a legal fight about certain private property rights.
Challenges to Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandatory shutdown mount from businesses
HARRISBURG — Challenges are mounting to Gov. Tom Wolf’s order late Thursday directing all but “life-sustaining” businesses to shut down, with the first of what could be a wave of lawsuits contending that the governor has overstepped his authority under the state Constitution.
On Friday afternoon, the Harrisburg-based law firm of Costopoulos, Foster & Fields petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for an emergency injunction to allow the firm to reopen. The governor’s order, among a list of other businesses, required law firms to close their physical locations.
“The governor’s order is so broad and sweeping, it is manifestly unconstitutional and illegal,” wrote William C. Costopoulos, a partner in the firm and a well-known defense lawyer who has represented elected and other officials in criminal cases.
He added that the firm, its clients, “and others across Pennsylvania will continue to be deprived of their state and federal constitutional rights. … Not even a public health emergency should result in the deprivation of such critical rights.”
Later Friday, a separate law firm asked the high court to intervene — this time, on behalf of the firm, a gun shop, and a potential gun buyer. Among the arguments: that the would-be gun buyer from Bucks County was unable to purchase a firearm because gun shops in his area had shut down.
Joshua Prince, chief counsel at the Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., said in a statement that his firm “will not stand idly by and permit our elected officials to eviscerate our residents’ inviolate constitutional and statutory rights.”
The Wolf administration has claimed broad powers in handling the public health emergencycaused by the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.
Wolf signed an emergency disaster declaration on March 6, after the state confirmed the first coronavirus cases. In doing so, he triggered a part of the Pennsylvania’s emergency management law that vastly expands a governor’s powers. They include everything from ordering mass evacuations to limiting or outright halting liquor and firearm sales.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise this week, Wolf on Thursday issued a new and expansive directive that sent the state’s business community into a tailspin of panic and confusion. It required all but the most essential businesses to close. His administration said “life-sustaining” businesses that could remain open include grocery stores, gas stations, farms, and transit systems.
This is an important legal issue. The preservation of rights even in times of emergency is something that should be scrutinized carefully.
My recommendation is that everyone follows the governors orders. It's important for the safety of the community. We can debate the legalities later.
Stay safe, smart and prepared and we'll get through this.
I'm Chris, host of the Christopher Scott Show Podcast. If you want to check out the podcast it's available on your favorite podcast player and HERE.