Photo: Canadian Press
FILE – Protesters gather for a rally against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in front of the Lincoln Memorial on January 23, 2022 in Washington. On Thursday, April 7, 2022, a federal appeals court upheld President Joe Biden’s requirement that all federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
President Joe Biden requires that all federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, a federal appeals court upheld on Thursday.
In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court and ordered the trial challenging the mandate to be dismissed. The ruling, a rare victory for the administration in a New Orleans-based appellate court, said the federal judge did not have jurisdiction in the case and could pursue administrative measures under the civil service law challenging the requirement.
Biden issued an executive order on September 9, ordering vaccinations for all executive branch agency employees, with the exception of medical and religious reasons. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, who was appointed by then-President Donald Trump to the District Court for the Southern District of Texas, issued a nationwide injunction against the requirement in January.
When the matter was debated in the 5th Circuit last month, administration lawyers noted that before Brown’s ruling, district judges in a dozen jurisdictions refused to challenge the vaccine requirement for federal workers.
The administration argued that the Constitution gives the president, as head of the federal workforce, the same authority as the CEO of a private corporation to vaccinate employees.
Lawyers for those challenging the mandate had recently pointed to the Supreme Court’s opinion that the government cannot compel private employers to require employee vaccinations.
Twelve of the 17 active justices in the 5th Circuit were nominated to the court by Republicans, with six being appointed by Trump.
Judges Carl Stewart and James Dennis, both nominated to the court by President Bill Clinton, were in the majority. Judge Risa Barksdale, a senior judge nominated by President George H.W. Bush, disagreed, saying the challengers’ relief did not fall under the Civil Services Reform Act cited by the administration.
The case marked an ideological divide in the appeals court even before Thursday’s ruling.
A separate panel in February declined to keep Brown’s decision pending an appeal. The vote for that panel was 2-1. No reason was given by the majority – Judge Jerry Smith, President Ronald Reagan’s nominee, and Don Willett, the Trump nominee.
But there was a longstanding dissent by Judge Stephen Higginson, a nominee of President Barack Obama, who said that a single district judge “lacks public health expertise and is not accountable through life term,” preventing the president from making similar orders. Shouldn’t be able to. Several private sector CEOs have ordered COVID-19 safeguards.