Gov. Wolf's authority to temporarily stop youth sports being contested in lawsuit

Gov. Tom Wolf

Gov. Tom Wolf's authority to temporarily halt youth sports in Pennsylvania is being contested in a of lawsuit by a state school district.

According to the (Greensburg) Tribune-Review, a Butler County attorney, who previously won a federal lawsuit against the Wolf administration over the spring COVID-19 shutdown orders, has filed two new suits over the governor’s most recent COVID-19 mitigation orders.

The Tribune-Review is reporting that one of those lawsuits is being brought by the Butler Area School District from the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, also known at District 7.

The other lawsuit is being brought by two indoor water parks. The lawsuits allege that Gov. Tom Wolf took action prohibited under state law when, on Dec. 12, he issued orders closing entertainment venues, limiting indoor capacity to 10 people and prohibiting school students from participating in extracurricular activities and athletics.

That last item effectively shut down high school sports, both practices and games, until Jan. 4, 2021.

In the school district lawsuit, the Tribune-Review is reporting that attorney Tom King wrote: "The governor’s powers are not absolute, and he cannot act in a manner that violates the Pennsylvania constitution and statutes.”

King filed the suit on behalf of Butler Area School District, as well as the school board and several parents, on Monday afternoon in Commonwealth Court. The lawsuit contends that Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine usurped their authority relative to how the order effects local school districts.

The lawsuit asks the court to reverse the governor’s mitigation order.

According to the Tribune-Review, the complaint cites Pennsylvania’s school code which grants school board directors and individual districts the power to adopt and enforce rules “regarding the management of its school affairs and the conduct and deportment” of employees and students.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to reverse the administration’s orders and grant a permanent injunction to stop the administration from prohibiting in-person instruction or a ban on other activities.

The water parks lawsuit has been assigned the U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV, who in September, ruled that Wolf’s initial orders in the spring restricting the size of gathering and closing nonessential businesses to protect against the spread of COVID were unconstitutional. King also brought that suit.

That case is currently on appeal with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.