President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for private businesses has been halted by a federal court that cited “grave statutory and constitutional issues.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit made the decision on Saturday pending further litigation, Bloomberg Law reported.
The order comes a day after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration officially published its vaccinate-or-test regulation, which was met by a flurry of lawsuits from Republican state attorneys general, companies, and other organizations seeking to block it. The emergency temporary standard is supposed to last just six months, heightening the significance of any delay before the rule gets full judicial review.
The three-judge Fifth Circuit panel that halted the regulation is composed of Judges Kyle Duncan and Kurt Engelhardt, who were both appointed by the Trump administration, and Judge Edith Jones, a Reagan administration appointee.
A group of companies led by BST Holdings sought the stay in the Fifth Circuit, where they filed suit on Friday seeking to have the measure voided. Challengers have similarly filed motions asking for the rule to be paused in other circuit courts.
With multiple lawsuits against the OSHA regulation filed in several circuit courts, federal rules for mulit-circuit litigation call for the cases to be consolidated and heard by one court that’s initially chosen by a lottery.
“Before the court is the petitioners’ emergency motion to stay enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Nov. 5 2021 Emergency Temporary Standard (the “Mandate”), pending expedited judicial review,” the court said.
“Because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate, the Mandate is hereby STAYED pending further action by this court,” it said.
The stay can be lifted by another court who takes the case, but the Fifth Circuit gave the Biden administration until Monday to respond to the plaintiff’s request for a permanent injunction.
“The Government shall respond to the petitioners’ motion for a permanent injunction by 5pm on Monday Nov 8. The petitioners shall file any reply by 5pm on Tuesday Nov. 9,” it said.
If the case makes it to the Supreme Court it may not be a victory for Republicans who want the mandate stopped as, in a recent case, some conservative justices sided with liberals to allow a vaccine mandate to continue.’
Conservative members of the Supreme Court sided against a group of healthcare workers in Maine who were fighting a vaccine mandate in the state.
The mandate took effect in October and the court rejected the emergency appeal of the workers, with Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett siding with the defendants, Fox News reported.
Now the workers at the state’s hospitals and nursing homes are at risk of becoming unemployed if they do not get the vaccine and there are no religious exemptions.
Three conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, dissented from the majority 6 – 3 decision, saying that they would have sided with the healthcare workers.
“This case presents an important constitutional question, a serious error, and an irreparable injury,” Justice Gorsuch said. “Where many other States have adopted religious exemptions, Maine has charted a different course. There, healthcare workers who have served on the front line of a pandemic for the last 18 months are now being fired and their practices shuttered. All for adhering to their constitutionally protected religious beliefs.”
“Their plight is worthy of our attention,” he said. “I would grant relief.”
In a statement agreeing with the court’s unwillingness to involve itself in the matter, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was joined by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, said the court has “discretionary judgment” on whether to take emergency appeals like this and claimed the court was being asked to “grant extraordinary relief.”