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Judge Denies Gov. Tom Wolf's Motion, Shutdown Order And Gathering Limits Still Unconstitutional

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — A federal judge on Tuesday declined to stay his own ruling that Gov. Tom Wolf's size limits on gatherings are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV said the administration had failed to show "imminent and irreparable harm will occur" if the state can't limit event crowds to 25 people inside and 250 people outside.

State officials had asked Stickman, an appointee of President Donald Trump, to delay enforcement of his ruling while they appeal.

Stickman's ruling invalidated key parts of the Wolf administration's early pandemic response, including his orders requiring people to stay at home and shuttering thousands of businesses deemed "non-life-sustaining."

Inside Classy Cuts in Waynesburg, salon owner Cathy Hoskins, a plaintiff on the case, is celebrating.

"I've had a lot of good people helping us and rooting for us to win and it's been great. I just hope that this continues," said Hoskins.

Wolf, a Democrat, has since eased many of the restrictions, but Stickman also ruled against the state's current size limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, saying they violate citizens' constitutional right to assemble.


Stickman's Sept. 14 ruling has already prompted some Pennsylvania school districts to greatly expand attendance at high school football games.

Rejecting the state's request for a stay, the judge said Tuesday that state officials failed to explain why they have allowed commercial businesses to operate at a percentage of their capacity — meaning hundreds of shoppers inside a large store, for example — while capping numerical attendance at social, political, cultural and other gatherings.

Wolf said at a news conference Tuesday that his administration will appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. He also said this past Friday night proved people care about gathering limits.

"There were very few schools -- if any -- that had big, big crowds at their events," he said, going on to say that "people in Pennsylvania have shown they don't want to get this disease."

A statement from the governor's press secretary reads:

"The administration is disappointed with the decision and is filing an appeal. 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. This decision is especially worrying as Pennsylvania and the rest of the country are likely to face a challenging time with the possible resurgence of COVID-19 and the flu in the fall and winter."

(TM and © Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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