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Justice Samuel Alito this week ordered the Pennsylvania government to respond to arguments from a variety of Pennsylvanians asking the Supreme Court to halt enforcement of Gov. Tom Wolf's strict stay-at-home order, aimed at fighting the coronavirus, because they say it is unconstitutional.
The Pennsylvanians behind the suit – called petitioners in Supreme Court parlance – are arguing that their rights under the First, Fifth and 14th Amendments have been violated through Wolf's order. The petition lays out a variety of grounds on which it says the order is unconstitutional.
"[T]he Order violated the Petitioners rights not to be deprived of their property without due process of law guaranteed by the [Fifth and 14th Amendments], the right not to have their property taken without just compensation guaranteed by the [Fifth Amendment], their right to judicial review guaranteed by the [5th and Fourteenth Amendments], their right to equal protection of the law guaranteed by the [14th Amendment], and their right to free speech and assembly guaranteed by the [First Amendment]," it says.
Alito, who handles emergency requests such as this one for the Third Circuit, which encompasses Pennsylvania, found those arguments convincing enough to order that Pennsylvania respond with a defense of Wolf's order by Monday.
The group of petitioners from Pennsylvania includes Danny DeVito, a candidate for the state House of Representatives, who says the order keeps him from accessing his campaign office whereas his incumbent opponent can access her office. There is also a golf course that claims it is losing revenue because it is not able to open thanks to Wolf's order and a real estate agent who says she is unable to work because her business was put on a list of "non-life-sustaining" businesses.
To support their claims, the petitioners also cite a variety of bleak economic metrics, outside criticism of Wolf's order, and concerns "about the arbitrariness of the waiver process" that doles out exceptions to the order, among other things.
"Part of our legal challenge is the arbitrariness and capriciousness of the list, of which industry is on which classification," Marc Scaringi, the Harrisburg-based lawyer representing the petitioners said. "The whole thing is fundamentally based on terms that have no clear knowing, understandable definition."
If a stay is granted, it would last until the Supreme Court decides whether or not to accept or deny the petitioners' application for the Supreme Court to hear the case on its merits.
On Monday, Wolf announced the lifting of some restrictions on businesses related to certain outdoor activities beginning May 1. He's planned to reopen the economy on a "regional, sector-based approach," according to a plan released earlier this month.
Fox News' Louis Casiano and Charles Creitz contributed to this report.