Earlier this week, Justice Alito ordered Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania to respond to a lawsuit filed in response to the state’s stay-at-home order.
With lockdown orders still in place across the country, residents in various states have begun pushing back against what they’re calling excessive restrictions and executive orders. In Pennsylvania, for example, a lawsuit was filed against Governor Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order. The order, which was issued on March 19, barred “any businesses from remaining open that were not deemed by the state as life-sustaining.” Unlike similar lawsuits filed in other states, this one stands out because Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ordered Wolf to respond to the lawsuit by Monday.
Shortly after issuing the stay-at-home order in Pennsylvania, Wolf implemented a waiver process where businesses could appeal for permission to operate. In total, the state “received over 42,000 waiver requests, approved approximately 7,800, rejected nearly 18,800, and found that about 14,500 did not require one for the activity they wanted to perform.”
The lawsuit was filed by attorney Marc Scaringi on behalf of a handful of business owners “who did not receive a waiver.” In an emergency filing to the U.S. Supreme Court, he argued “the manner in which some businesses were allowed to remain open while others were forced to remain closed was arbitrary and capricious, with no means of judicial review of the actions taken by the executive branch.”
Additionally, Scaringi argued the governor’s order violates the First, Fifth, and 14th Amendments of his clients. The First Amendment “guarantees the rights to freedom of speech and assembly and the Fifth and 14th amendments guarantee that no one should be denied the rights to life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor equal protection under the law.”
In his emergency filing, Scaringi also called on the U.S. Supreme Court to “immediately stay enforcement of the governor’s order, as well as a petition for a writ of certiorari, seeking a full constitutional review.”
Justice Alito is the judge responsible for overseeing the review of emergency petitions originating in the Third Circuit, which includes Pennsylvania. Upon review, he “ordered Wolf to file a response by Monday at noon.”
Pleased that Justice Alito agreed to consider the case, Scaringi said, “we got to first base.” He added, “We are cautiously optimistic. We know that the United States Supreme Court very, very rarely grants stays and very rarely grants petitions for writ of cert, but if there is any situation that calls for the intervention of the highest court in the land, it’s this one…This is clearly a case involving a significant matter of great importance to the people of the country, not just Pennsylvania.”
Prior to appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, Scaringi filed the lawsuit in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. However, that court ruled against the suit and concluded that “the governor had the authority under the state’s police powers in a time of emergency to take the actions he did.”