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Supreme Court case delayed by pandemic and work from home

Citing the COVID-19 pandemic – and work from home challenges – the state has requested an extension to file a response brief a U.S. Supreme Court case that challenges Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic response business closure order.

That case is being brought by a group of entities, including two Warren County business — Blueberry Hill Golf Club and the Caledonia Land Company of Clarendon.

The case was to go before the Supreme Court at conference on June 25 but the justices asked for a response brief from the state, which had initially indicated it was not going to respond. The deadline for that response had been set for July 22.

But in a letter sent to the Supreme Court clerk, J. Bart DeLone, the state’s Chief Deputy Attorney General, asked for that to be extended back to August 21.

DeLone cited a provision in a Supreme Court order from March that permits extensions of time “as a matter of course if the grounds for the application are difficulties relating to COVID-19” and the request is reasonable.

DeLone then laid out his case in that regard.

“The physical offices of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General have been closed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020,” the letter states. “As evidenced by this case, this section consists of a small cadre of attorneys with specialized knowledge. This section has been, and continues to, defend against numerous attacks on the Governor’s authority to respond to the current public healthcare emergency.”

He says the briefing schedules in these cases has been “extremely abbreviated.

“And we have had to litigate these cases from our respective home offices, which encumbers collaboration and our ability to prepare the booklets for mailing,” he wrote. “A 30-day extension will ensure that we have sufficient time to fully research and prepare a brief responding to the many issues raised in the petition for writ of certiorari and supplemental brief,” including that the opposing counsel concurs.

The court subsequently granted the request.

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