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Case Name County of Butler v. Wolf PR-PA-0002
Docket / Court 2:20-cv-00677 ( W.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Presidential/Gubernatorial Authority
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This constitutional claims action was filed by Pennsylvania counties, residents, and businesses on May 7, 2020, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief from the state's public safety orders. The court granted declaratory relief to the plaintiffs on September 14, 2020.
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COVID-19 Summary: This constitutional claims action was filed by Pennsylvania counties, residents, and businesses on May 7, 2020, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief from the state's public safety orders. The court granted declaratory relief to the plaintiffs on September 14, 2020.


The plaintiffs, four Pennsylvania counties and several Pennsylvania residents and business organizations, brought this action in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on May 7, 2020 against the Governor of Pennsylvania and the Secretary of the state's Department of Health. The suit was in response to a March 19, 2020 order that prohibited the operation of non-"life sustaining" businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plaintiffs claimed that the shutdown order violated the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Substantive and Procedural Due Process protections of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the First Amendment's right to free association. The plaintiffs sought an injunction preventing further enforcement of the business shutdown order and the elimination of the waiver system. They also sought a declaratory judgment that the issuance and enforcement of the order is unconstitutional.

On May 28, 2020, the court allowed the case to continue, despite an ease in restrictions. 2020 WL 2769105. The court found that declaratory relief for the plaintiffs could still be awarded even if injunctive relief was now impossible under their claims. However, the court did set aside plaintiffs' Fifth Amendment takings clause claims and their Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claims regarding the state's waiver process. The court found that declaratory relief was not appropriate for either of these claims, but allowed the case to continue on all other claims.

On September 14, 2020, the court dismissed the county plaintiffs from the case, finding. District Judge William Stickman IV found that the county plaintiffs were improper because they are not conferred constitutional rights under the U.S. Constitution. 2020 WL 5510690. Judge Stickman determined that the defendants' limits on gatherings violated the plaintiffs' right to free speech and their right of assembly because the limitations were not narrowly tailored to serve a government interest. The court also found that the defendants' orders violated the plaintiffs' substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, finding that broad and population and business lockdowns are nearly impossible under the Constitution. In addition, the court found that the business lockdowns violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since large retailers largely remained open while small specialty stores were forced to close.

On October 1, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit granted a motion by the appellants for stay of the district court's order pending appeal. USCA Case Number 20-2936. The appeal is ongoing.

Nicholas Gillan - 11/03/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Establishment Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Takings
Plaintiff Type
City/County Plaintiff
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Defendant(s) Rachel Levine
Thomas W. Wolf
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are Butler, Fayette, Greene, and Washington counties in the State of Pennsylvania, several Pennsylvania residents, and several business organizations doing business in Pennsylvania
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 08/11/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
W.D. Pa.
10/01/2020
2:20-cv-00677-WSS
PR-PA-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
W.D. Pa.
05/07/2020
Complaint in Civil Action Seeking Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PR-PA-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Pa.
05/28/2020
Memorandum Opinion and Order of Court [ECF# 15] (2020 WL 2769105)
PR-PA-0002-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Pa.
09/14/2020
Opinion [ECF# 79] (486 F.Supp.3d 883)
PR-PA-0002-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Pa.
09/14/2020
Declaratory Judgment Order [ECF# 80]
PR-PA-0002-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Pa.
09/22/2020
Final Declaratory Judgment [ECF# 90]
PR-PA-0002-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Pa.
09/22/2020
Memorandum Order [ECF# 91] (2020 WL 5647480)
PR-PA-0002-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
10/01/2020
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 100] (2020 WL 5868393)
PR-PA-0002-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Chagares, Michael A. (Third Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-PA-0002-0007
Shwartz, Patty (D.N.J., Third Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-PA-0002-0007
Smith, David Brooks (W.D. Pa., Third Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-PA-0002-0007
Stickman, William Shaw IV (W.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
PR-PA-0002-0002 | PR-PA-0002-0003 | PR-PA-0002-0004 | PR-PA-0002-0005 | PR-PA-0002-0006 | PR-PA-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Breth, Thomas E (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PR-PA-0002-0001 | PR-PA-0002-9000
Elliott, Ronald T (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PR-PA-0002-0001 | PR-PA-0002-9000
Grimm, Robert Eugene (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PR-PA-0002-0001
King, Thomas W (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PR-PA-0002-0001 | PR-PA-0002-9000
Shuber, Jordan P (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PR-PA-0002-0001 | PR-PA-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Romano, Karen Mascio (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PR-PA-0002-9000
Other Lawyers Joseph, Lawrence J (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-PA-0002-9000

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