The Lead

Alito orders Wolf to respond to business shutdown lawsuit

By: - May 1, 2020 12:34 pm

This story was updated at 12:34 with a statement from the Wolf administration.

Business owners may still have their day in court against Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic-inspired business shutdown order.

According to media reports, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has ordered Wolf respond to the petition, brought by a trio  of businesses across the commonwealth that included a  real estate agent, a golf course and a laundromat — as well as a suburban Pittsburgh GOP state House hopeful.

Alito has the power to review emergency cases filed in the Third District, which includes Pennsylvania.

Wolf will have until Monday to lay out his legal authority to order all non-“life-sustaining” businesses to close. Wolf made the order on March 19, and it has been in effect since.

The order has been met with consternation from business groups and lawmakers, who see it as executive overreach. As elected officials have pushed in Harrisburg for a legislative solution, the legal challenge was filed March 24.

On April 13, the state Supreme Court threw out the challenge in a 4-3 decision. 

Writing for the majority, Justice Christine Donohue, a Democrat, wrote that Wolf’s order “constitutes a classic example of the use of the police power to ‘protect the lives, health, morals, comfort, and general welfare of the people.’”

In an email, Wolf spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger declined to comment on the legal matter. However, she added that state high court’s ruling “recognized that the exemption process provided a vehicle for businesses to challenge, and the administration to consider, whether a business’s exclusion from the life-sustaining business list was proper.”

According to polling, Wolf’s response to the virus has been popular. A Fox News poll released last week found that 69 percent of Pennsylvanians approved of Wolf’s actions.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.