Photo: The Canadian Press
FILE – Protesters gather for rally against COVID-19 vaccine mandates in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on January 23, 2022. The Federal Court of Appeals on Thursday, April 7, 2022, upheld President Joe Biden’s demand that all federal officials be vaccinated against COVID-19.
President Joe Biden’s demand that all federal officials be vaccinated against COVID-19 was upheld on Thursday by a federal appeals court.
By decision 2-1, a panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal overturned the lower instance and ordered the dismissal of a case challenging the mandate. The ruling, a rare victory for the administration at the New Orleans-based appellate court, says a federal judge has no jurisdiction over the case and those who challenge the claim could seek administrative redress under the Civil Service Act.
Biden issued an executive order on September 9, ordering vaccinations for all employees of the agency in the executive branch, with exceptions for medical and religious reasons. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, who was appointed to the South Texas District Court by then-President Donald Trump, issued a national order against the requirement in January.
When the case was heard in District 5 last month, administration attorneys noted that district judges in a dozen jurisdictions had rejected a challenge to a vaccine requirement for federal workers before Brown ruled.
The administration says the constitution gives the president, as head of the federal workforce, the same powers as the CEO of a private corporation to require employees to be vaccinated.
Lawyers for those challenging the mandate cited a recent Supreme Court ruling that the government could not force private employers to require vaccinations for employees.
Twelve of the 17 current judges in the 5th district were nominated to the court by Republicans, including six appointed by Trump.
Judges Carl Stewart and James Dennis, both nominated in court by President Bill Clinton, were in the majority. Judge Reza Barksdale, a senior judge nominated by President George W. Bush, disagreed, saying the relief sought by the candidates did not fall within the Civil Service Reform Act, quoted by the administration.
The case marked ideological divisions in the appellate court ahead of Thursday’s ruling.
In February, another panel refused to block Brown’s decision pending an appeal. The vote of this committee was 2-1. There were no reasons given by the majority – Judge Jerry Smith, nominated for President Ronald Reagan, and Don Willett, nominated for Trump.
But there was a long-running disagreement from Judge Stephen Higginson, President Barack Obama’s nomination, who said a single district judge, “lacking public health expertise and who became irresponsible during his lifetime,” should not could block the president from ordering the same type of COVID-19 security measures that many private sector executives have ordered.