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Biden Bid to Lift Block on Federal Worker Shot Mandate Denied

Feb. 10, 2022, 1:09 AM

A federal appeals court declined Wednesday to lift an injunction blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a Covid-19 vaccination requirement for federal workers.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in a 2-1 vote, will allow the injunction to remain in place while the court determines whether the vaccine order exceeds the president’s authority.

The injunction, granted by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in January, bars the government from directing federal agencies to require their employees to be vaccinated.

Circuit Court Judge Stephen A. Higginson dissented, writing that Biden was likely to succeed on the merits of the case, and that the plaintiffs, a group called Feds for Medical Freedom, failed to show they are likely to suffer irreparable harm without the injunction.

The president has the right to prescribe the qualifications of executive branch employees and attach conditions to their employment, Higginson wrote.

“Thus the President, as head of the federal executive workforce, has authority to establish the same immunization requirements that many private employers have reasonably imposed to ensure workplace safety and prevent workplace disruptions caused by Covid-19.”

The government, however, will be irreparably injured absent a stay, and the public has an indisputable interest in stemming the spread of a highly contagious deadly disease through the federal executive workforce, Higginson added.

“A presidential order affecting millions of federal employees has been enjoined nationwide, yet two separate federal courts have failed to rule on the government’s emergency request for a stay,” he wrote. “The only court that can now provide timely relief is the Supreme Court.”

The Fifth Circuit ordered an expedited oral argument schedule.

Judges Jerry E. Smith and Don R. Willett joined the per curiam order.

The case is Feds For Medical Freedom v. Biden, 5th Cir., No. 22-40043, 2/9/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maeve Allsup in San Francisco at mallsup@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com