A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled on Monday that several restrictions ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf to combat the pandemic were unconstitutional. The decision struck down stay-at-home orders and the closure of “non-life-sustaining” businesses, directives that were issued in March and have since been suspended.
The judge also declared that a current order limiting the size of gatherings — no more than 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors — violated “the right of assembly enshrined in the First Amendment.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, said the administration was seeking a stay of the decision and an appeal. William Shaw Stickman IV, the judge who ruled on the case, was nominated to the bench by President Trump in 2019.
Mr. Trump, at an event in Arizona, celebrated the decision, calling it a “great ruling.”
As in other states, many Republican politicians in Pennsylvania have been steadfastly opposed to their state’s pandemic mitigation strategy, with some urging the governor’s impeachment. In July, the State Supreme Court rejected a suit filed by Republican legislators seeking to end Mr. Wolf’s emergency authority.
Some of the most vocal opponents of the governor, including Representative Mike Kelly, a Republican whose district is in western Pennsylvania, were among the plaintiffs in the suit that was decided on Monday.
“The court believes that defendants undertook their actions in a well-intentioned effort to protect Pennsylvanians from the virus,” Judge Stickman wrote. “However, good intentions toward laudable ends are not alone enough to uphold governmental action against a constitutional challenge. Indeed, the greatest threats to our system of constitutional liberties may arise when the ends are laudable, and the intent is good — especially in a time of emergency.”
In a statement, the governor’s spokeswoman said that “the actions taken by the administration were mirrored by governors across the country and saved, and continue to save, lives in the absence of federal action.”