The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana, in a change of heart from its Apr. 7, 2022 decision, agreed to hear arguments against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal workers. The court will hear the matter en banc which means that there will be a full panel of judges convened. This decision vacates the court’s previous ruling which reinstated the vaccine mandate for federal workers. Therefore, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers has once again been paused.1 2 3
Implementation of the COVID vaccine mandate will be delayed until at least September when the full court will hear arguments. The Biden administration has announced that they will not process or make any decisions regarding medical or religious exemptions to the mandate or suspend or fire any workers for failing to comply with President Biden’s mandate pending the court’s decision.4
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals previous decision reinstated the vaccine mandate for federal workers based on the court’s conclusion that the president of the United States has the power to order to federal employees to get vaccinated, while federal judges do not have jurisdiction to interfere. Because the court found that they did not have authority to override the president in matters like this, the judges did not rule on the merits of the case. In September, the same court en banc may be more likely to consider all arguments and make a decision on the merits of the case.5
History of the COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for Federal Workers
In September 2021, the Biden administration ordered that all federal workers receive a COVID vaccination as a condition of employment. In January 2022, however, a Federal District Court in Texas issued a preliminary injunction against the mandate, which halted the vaccine requirement for federal workers. The court blocked the mandate, finding that it exceeded the President’s authority and required Congressional approval.6 The judges ruled:
… no legal remedy adequately protects the liberty interests of employees who must choose between violating a mandate of doubtful validity or consenting to an unwanted medical procedure that cannot be undone.7
The Biden administration appealed the decision. In February, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Texas District Court’s temporary injunction pending the outcome of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals final ruling.8
On Apr. 7, however, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found for the Biden administration and held that the federal vaccine mandate must be reinstated, and the case dismissed. The court held that a federal judge does not have jurisdiction over federal employees challenging the vaccine mandate and redress is found exclusively under Civil Service Law.9 The court said that the President, as CEO of the executive branch, has proper authority to issue a mandate on federal employees.10
Advocacy Group Feds for Medical Freedom Presses On
The ruling reinstating the mandate effective May 23, faced a challenge when an advocacy group called Feds for Medical Freedom and other interested parties filed a petition seeking to overturn the decision and requested that the full 17-member court hear new arguments in the matter.11
Feds for Medical Freedom, which has over 6,000 members, argues that the President’s unilateral decision to affect the lives of millions of federal employees is, “a matter of exceptional importance,” which necessitates a hearing en banc. The group also contends that the Fifth Circuit’s April opinion contradicts previous court precedent with regard to pre-enforcement challenges.12
Marcus Thronton, president of Feds for Medical Freedom, pointed out the high stakes of this case stating:
A policy that threatens to derail or end the careers of dedicated public servants who do not consent to take a COVID vaccine is both unconstitutional and immoral.13
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Click here to view References:
1 Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal workers blocked while appeals court reconsiders its own ruling. CBS News June 27, 2022.
2 Reuters. U.S. Appeals Court Vacates Federal Vaccine Mandate Pending Additional Hearing. U.S. News & World Report June 27, 2022.
3 Katz E. Enforcement of Biden’s Federal Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Is Delayed—Again. Government Executive June 27, 2022.
6 Hendler C. U.S. District Court in Texas Blocks Federal Employee COVID Vaccine Mandate. The Vaccine Reaction Feb. 14, 2022.
7 Feds for Medical Freedom v. Joseph R. Biden. Case 3:21-cv-00356 Document 36. Jan. 21, 2022.
8 Hendler C. U.S. District Court in Texas Blocks Federal Employee COVID Vaccine Mandate. The Vaccine Reaction Feb. 14, 2022..
9 Associated Press. Appeals court OKs Biden federal employee vaccine mandate. Fox News Apr. 7, 2022.
10 Katz E. Enforcement of Biden’s Federal Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Is Delayed—Again. Government Executive June 27, 2022.
11 McGill K. Opponents of federal vaccine mandate seek rehearing. ABC News May 23, 2022.
12 Feds for Medical Freedom et al. vs. Joseph R. Biden et al. Petition for Rehearing En Banc. Case: 22-40043 Document 00516328084. May, 5, 2022.
13 Katz E. Enforcement of Biden’s Federal Employee COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Is Delayed—Again. Government Executive June 27, 2022.