A federal appeals court on Thursday overturned President Joe Biden’s directive requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for workers of the federal government.
Arguments that Biden, as the country’s president, has the same power as the CEO of a private firm to compel that employees get immunized were rejected by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
The decision by the entire appeals court, which at the time of the case’s argument consisted of 16 full-time justices, overturned a prior decision by a three-judge 5th Circuit panel that had supported the vaccine mandate. The ruling was written by Judge Andrew Oldham on behalf of the court’s 10-member majority. He was appointed by the then-President Donald Trump.
The decision upholds the current vaccination policy for government employees. It sustains a preliminary injunction that a federal court ordered in January 2022 to prevent the requirement. At that time, the government said that around 98% of covered workers had received vaccinations.
The lawsuit will return to the court for more arguments once the preliminary injunction arguments are finished, Oldham observed, when “both sides will have to grapple with the White House’s announcement that the COVID emergency will finally end on May 11, 2023.”
The policy’s critics said that it intrudes on the lives of government employees in a way that neither the Constitution nor federal statutes permit.
In September 2021, Biden signed an executive order mandating vaccinations for all workers of executive branch agencies, with exceptions allowed for medical and religious grounds. The regulation became effective in November of that year. The following January, Trump selected US District Judge Jeffrey Brown to the Southern District of Texas District Court, and he immediately issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the mandate.
Three judges from the Fifth Circuit disagreed on whether to immediately invalidate the statute.
But, a separate tribunal affirmed Biden’s view after hearing arguments. The majority of the judges on the court were Carl Stewart and James Dennis, both of whom President Bill Clinton nominated. Judge Rhesa Barksdale, a nominee of President George H.W. Bush, disagreed, stating that the administration’s citation of the Civil Service Reform Act did not apply to the relief the challengers were seeking.
Federal legislation does not prevent court jurisdiction over instances involving “private, irreversible medical decisions made in consultation with private medical professionals outside the federal workplace.”