Shelter-in-place orders are perfectly legal

Supreme Court precedent, however, comes down on the side of the governments. In 2002, a majority of the court decided in Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (which John Roberts had argued on behalf of Lake Tahoe) that temporary restrictions, like the 32-month moratorium on development on Lake Tahoe involved in the case, did not in and of themselves constitute regulatory takings.

While temporary restrictions might rise to the level of regulatory takings, courts would have to examine a number of factors particular to each case to figure it out. When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the state closure order recently, the only such case decided so far, it relied on this distinction between temporary and permanent governmental action.

In the past, emergencies have often called for states to impose short-term economic restrictions, and the Supreme Court has affirmed their constitutionality, emphasizing that temporary steps that might otherwise infringe on economic rights may be permissible.