NEW ORLEANS (AP) — President Joe Biden’s requirement that all federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 was upheld Thursday by a federal appeals court.
In a 2-to-1 decision, a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel overturned a lower court and ordered a lawsuit challenging the warrant to be dismissed. The ruling, a rare victory for the New Orleans Court of Appeals administration, said the federal judge lacked jurisdiction in the case and those challenging the requirement could have filed lawsuits administrative under the Civil Service Act.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, who was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of Texas by then-President Donald Trump, had issued a nationwide injunction against the requirement in January.
When the case was argued in the 5th Circuit last month, administration attorneys noted that district judges in a dozen jurisdictions had dismissed a challenge to the vaccine requirement for federal workers before Brown does not speak.
The administration argued that the Constitution gives the president, as head of the federal workforce, the same power as the CEO of a private company to require employees to be vaccinated.
Lawyers for those challenging the mandate pointed to a recent Supreme Court opinion that the government cannot force private employers to require employees to be vaccinated.
Twelve of the 17 active 5th Circuit judges were appointed to the court by Republicans, including six appointed by Trump.
Justices Carl Stewart and James Dennis, both appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton, had the majority. Judge Rhesa Barksdale, a senior judge appointed by President George HW Bush, dissented, saying the relief sought by the challengers does not fall under the Civil Service Reform Act cited by the administration.
The case marked ideological divisions in the appeals court even before Thursday’s decision.
Another panel declined in February to block Brown’s decision pending appeal. The vote of this panel was 2-1. No reason was given by the majority – Judge Jerry Smith, a candidate for President Ronald Reagan, and Don Willett, a candidate for Trump.
But there was a long dissent from Judge Stephen Higginson, a candidate for President Barack Obama, who said a single district judge “lacking public health expertise and rendered irresponsible for life” should not be in able to prevent the President from ordering the same type of COVID-19 safety measures that many private sector CEOs have ordered.