Appeals court gives thumbs-up to Biden vaccine mandate in split decision

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal employees was legal, Fox News reported.

The 2-1 ruling reversed a lower court judgment and dismissed a lawsuit against the mandate by federal workers.

The ruling was a rare win for the Biden administration in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, which the administration has typically had poor luck in.

The case in question dealt with a decision by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown for the the District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Brown, a Trump appointee, blocked the mandate on 3.5 million federal employees in a January ruling, calling it a “bridge too far.”

“The court notes at the outset that this case is not about whether folks should get vaccinated against COVID-19—the court believes they should,” Brown said in his ruling.

The case “is not even about the federal government’s power, exercised properly to mandate vaccination of its employees. It is instead about whether the president can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment. That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far.”

However, in Thursday’s ruling, the 5th Circuit found that Brown didn’t have jurisdiction. Furthermore, the plaintiffs could have looked to administrative remedies under Civil Service law.

“When the case was argued at the 5th Circuit last month, administration lawyers had noted that district judges in a dozen jurisdictions had rejected a challenge to the vaccine requirement for federal workers before Brown ruled,” Fox News reported.

“The administration argued that the Constitution gives the president, as the head of the federal workforce, the same authority as the CEO of a private corporation to require that employees be vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, lawyers for the plaintiffs noted that the Supreme Court had ruled the federal government couldn’t force private employers to vaccinate their workforce.

A different panel on the 5th Circuit had refused to block Brown’s ruling in February, also by a 2-1 vote.

In his dissenting vote, Obama appointee Judge Stephen Higginson wrote that no one district judge like Brown, “lacking public health expertise and made unaccountable through life tenure,” should have been able to block a vaccine mandate.