Unconstitutional Executive Overreach: Amistad Project’s Case Moving Forward in Pennsylvania

From the beginning, Phill Kline’s Amistad Project has been on the frontlines defending personal liberties against unconstitutional executive overreach. One case moving forward is the Butler v. PA filing regarding a March 19, 2020 executive order that required all businesses that Governor Wolf defined as not “life-sustaining” to shut down aka the Business Shutdown Order. This order restricted the movement of residents among counties and their ability to use their own private property. As the filing states, “[The Business Shutdown Order] declared the ability to control the movement of residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and to order that citizens of the Commonwealth not utilize their private property, without providing the citizens prior notice nor an opportunity to be heard, and without providing just compensation.”

Among the plaintiffs are owners of businesses, salons, drive-in theaters, and restaurants as well as elected officials who were unable to campaign due to the orders. While the defense is trying to get this case dismissed since the restrictions were loosened and the order no longer in full effect, the Amistad Project’s most recent filing defends the importance of not withdrawing the case until it is heard on the merits. Unlike a statute that has been passed by the legislature where its interpretation can be debated and scrutinized, executive orders can be changed on a whim to avoid legal scrutiny.

The most recent filing by the Amistad Project responds to the question of whether or not the case is considered moot in defending the purpose of the case, which was not only to grant the citizens their constitutional rights against an abuse of government power, but to make sure this tyrannical exercise over citizens’ lives and property not occur again. Along with lawsuits like this, we are encouraged to see several state legislatures since the beginning of 2021 that have sought to curtail executive overreach from the abuses of emergency powers.For example, in Pennsylvania, Republican legislators have added a constitutional amendment to their primary ballot to have to voters choose whether they can grant the General Assembly the power to end gubernatorial disaster declarations. It also would require the General Assembly to vote on any declaration that extends beyond 21 days.

This is a reasonable protection against the abuse of power. An emergency is something for which one does not have adequate time to prepare. There is no such thing as an indefinite emergency, which yields indefinite power that exceeds that which the constitution enumerates, making kings out of would-be public servants. The concern of this kind of abuse of power should be non-partisan.

A recent article in Politico stated it this way, “Lawmakers are only now realizing how much power they cede to the executive — and are attempting to reassert themselves in blunt ways. If 2020 marked the rise of the authoritarian governors, 2021 may be the beginning of their fall.” We sincerely hope so and are encouraged to see a renewed energy from the grassroots to protect freedom and liberty across the states.