Report: Federal appeals court allows Pa. to restrict crowd sizes

By: - October 1, 2020 12:52 pm

(*This story was updated at 1:56 p.m. on 10/1/20 to include new comment from Gov. Tom Wolf)

A federal appellate court in Philadelphia has temporarily restored the Wolf administration’s pandemic restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, overruling a federal district judge, appointed by President Donald Trump, who had ruled those limits unconstitutional.

The ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gives Gov. Tom Wolf’s office the green light to enforce those size limits while it appeals the lower court’s order, which impacted everything from indoor dining to high school football games, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

More from the AP:

“U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV in Pittsburgh, an appointee of President Donald Trump, had ruled against the state’s size limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, saying they violate citizens’ constitutional rights to assemble. The state has been enforcing a gathering limit of more than 25 people for events held indoors and more than 250 people for those held outside.

“Stickman’s Sept. 14 order prompted many Pennsylvania schools districts to allow more fans in the stands at high school football games and other athletic contests.

“The office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro asked the 3rd Circuit to intervene, saying crowd-size limits are a “life-saving mitigation tool” to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

*At an appearance in Chester County on Thursday afternoon, Gov. Tom Wolf said he welcome the appellate court’s decision and hope they come up with the right decision on appeal.

“We have to recognize we have a virus — no one likes it – yet that virus is out to get us. We have to be careful about how we gather together. That’s the important thing,” Wolf said. “We have to be reasonable and realistic about how we do things. And continuing to listen to folks and make sure the guidelines we have in place are reasonable.”

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.