OAN’s Brooke Mallory
11:56 AM – Monday, December 11, 2023
A number of rulings pertaining to the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements for federal employees and military personnel were overturned by the Supreme Court, preventing the decisions from becoming precedent-setting in the future.
After declaring the disagreements moot, the justices agreed to throw out the lower decisions on Monday, clearing the way for any future vaccination requirements.
The lawsuits had resulted in differing rulings from the courts, but the vaccination mandates were repealed before the Supreme Court could comment on any of the appeals. The judges had to decide what legal remedy was suitable in light of the circumstances.
Regarding the federal employee requirement, two appeals courts reached different decisions regarding whether federal workers may file a constitutional challenge in court or whether they have to go through the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) first.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit determined in March that the MSPB was mandated by federal law in a case that was brought by a civilian employee of the Navy. A few days later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit rendered an opposing ruling in support of several plaintiffs, including a group called “Feds for Medical Freedom.”
Earlier in May, Biden revoked the executive order that had instituted the federal employee vaccination mandate, prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in either case.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit then imposed an injunction in the military vaccination mandate case, stopping the Air Force from enforcing the obligation against those who request religious exemptions.
A few weeks later, Congress enacted a law mandating that Biden’s defense secretary withdraw the order prior to the Supreme Court hearing any appeals.
The government pushed the justices in all three cases to grant a “Munsingwear vacatur,” which overturns a lower court decision in certain cases when it is deemed irrelevant.
The plaintiffs who prevailed in the cases and another government employee agreed, and the Navy employee who had lost in the lower court petitioned the Supreme Court to uphold their decisions.
The plaintiffs said that since the Biden administration had willingly brought forth its own case, Munsingwear vacatur was inapplicable. One group also pointed out that the vaccination obligation persisted even though other pandemic-era policies had been removed months earlier.
“Petitioners ask this Court to endorse a ‘heads we win, tails you get vacated’ version of Munsingwear, where they can litigate to the hilt in both district and circuit court and—only if they lose—then decline to seek substantive review from this Court and instead moot the case and ask this Court to erase the circuit court loss from the books,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney.
Ketanji Brown Jackson, the judge in two of the three cases, said that those who have consistently resisted the legal tactic dissented from the court’s ruling. In the third case, Jackson expressed that while she would personally disagree, she would grant the administration’s motion in accordance with established Supreme Court precedent.
“In my view, the party seeking vacatur has not established equitable entitlement to that remedy,” Jackson wrote.
The Biden administration claimed that the president’s decision to terminate the federal employee mandate was a result of evolving public health conditions.
“The President revoked EO 14,043 because of the waning of the pandemic, not any effort to evade judicial review or gain litigation advantage,” the Justice Department said in the court filings.
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