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Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Class-action Lawsuit Alleges Pennsylvania Government Violated Constitutional Rights When Distributing Coronavirus Business Waivers

When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) shut down the state to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, his administration began issuing waivers to certain businesses that had been deemed not “life-sustaining,” which would allow them to remain open.
The process was not transparent, and resulted in some businesses within the same industry getting different treatment. As Spotlight PA reported earlier this month, one photographer was granted a waiver while another was denied. A notary was granted a waiver but had it revoked without explanation the night before a list of waiver recipients was publicly posted. A trucking company that had been denied a waiver was suddenly granted one without explanation at the same time.
There was seemingly no rhyme or reason to the process, and business owners and individuals sued. One lawsuit alleged Wolf and his administration violated petitioners “constitutional guarantees against having property taken without compensation and their rights to judicial review, equal protection under the law and free speech,” The Morning Call reported.
The state Supreme Court refused to review the lawsuit, but the U.S. Supreme Court ended up weighing in, ordering Wolf to respond to the lawsuit.
That particular lawsuit includes real estate agent Kathy Gregory, who told the Call that people who had agreed to sell their homes were not able to buy new properties before Wolf’s shut down order went into effect and that members of the military – who are still moving from assignment to assignment – are unable to find homes.
“How do you tell someone that housing is not a priority because the government shut us down?” she asked the outlet, adding that shelter is “basic.”
Another lawsuit, obtained by The Daily Wire includes numerous plaintiffs including a real estate brokerage firm, a home inspection company, and a swimming pool retail store. Wolf’s order essentially destroyed these businesses, who derived the vast majority of their revenue from in-person services.
Walter Zimolong, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in that lawsuit, argues that 42,000 businesses in Pennsylvania applied for waivers to continue operating, and just 7,000 received them, including Wolf’s family business, Wolf Home Products. In an email to The Daily Wire, Zimolong said one of the businesses that was granted a waiver was a hair salon conveniently located in the state capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Kenwood Pools, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, was denied a waiver while two of its competitors’ waivers were granted. Win Homes Inspection, another company suing Wolf and his administration, also was denied a waiver while a competitor’s was granted.
Both lawsuits alleged the Wolf administration violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they were treated differently than competitors whose businesses were similar in all relevant aspects.
The New York Times reported that Pennsylvania is not the only state getting sued due to business shut downs. Similar lawsuits have been filed in Arizona, New Hampshire, and other states.

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