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Limits on gatherings in Pennsylvania again lose in court

Pennsylvania’s governor has suffered another embarrassing defeat after a judge on Tuesday prevented him from reimposing limits on gatherings. The judge said limits were arbitrary and not based on science.

Stickman, a Trump appointee, ruled last week that Wolf’s restrictions ordering people to stay at home and limit gatherings were unconstitutional.

The Constitution “cannot accept the concept of a ‘new normal’ where the basic liberties of the people can be subordinated to open-ended emergency mitigation measures,” he wrote at the time.

Wolf sought a stay of the ruling, but Stickman said his administration didn’t present information that would warrant a stay.

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The primary focus of the stay request was the determination that the imposition of number limits on gatherings violated the First Amendment.

Stickman noted that he didn’t say the government could not impose limitations on gatherings, but that the First Amendment doesn’t permit specific numeric caps on some gatherings while imposing a limitation based on general occupancy on others.

The judge referenced what thousands of scientists and doctors have contended, primarily that specific number caps are not baed on science.

“Defendants did not adduce any evidence that would explain and justify treating social, cultural, political, and other similar gatherings differently from the commercial gatherings covered by a percentage of occupancy-based limitation,” the judge wrote in the new 15-page ruling.

“For example, nobody explained why hundreds may gather indoors to shop (the larger the facility, the more people permitted), dozens may dine in a restaurant (again, the larger the restaurant, the more will be permitted), but no more than twenty-five may attend an indoor lecture, a speech or a wedding.”

Wolf told reporters on Tuesday that he plans on appealing Stickman’s ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Since the stay was turned down, then it sounds like, at least for the moment, I guess that court ruling stands,” he said, when asked whether gatherings of 500 are now legal.

Before the ruling earlier this month, Pennsylvania officials had said crowds of over 25 inside and 250 outside weren’t allowed.

In previous hearings, state officials could not point to any scientific evidence for the numbers they used in capping groups.

–Wire services