People For the American Way

Another Trump Judge Blocks Another COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement Nationwide: Our Courts, Our Fight

News and Analysis
Another Trump Judge Blocks Another COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement Nationwide: Our Courts, Our Fight
Health care worker in protective gear.

“Our Courts, Our Fight” is a blog series documenting the harmful impact of President Trump’s judges on Americans’ rights and liberties and the need for the Senate to confirm President Biden’s federal court nominees to help counteract these effects . Supreme and appellate court cases in the series can be found by issue and by judge at this link.

 

Trump District Court judge Stan Baker issued a preliminary injunction that blocked across the country a Biden Administration requirement that federal contractors ensure that their employees receive COVID-19 vaccinations. The case was filed by Republican governors in seven states. The December 2021 order was in Georgia v Biden.

In September 2021, President Biden issued an executive order requiring that all corporations and others that contract with the federal government in new or extensions of existing contracts take steps to ensure that their workers are vaccinated against COVID-19. The order stated, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) found, that the requirement would promote “economy and efficiency in Federal procurement” because it will help safeguard workers’ health and “decrease worker absence, reduce labor costs, and improve the efficiency” of contract work for the federal government. Vaccinations were to be completed by January 22, 2022. The order was issued as part of President Biden’s Path Out of the Pandemic plan, which includes vaccination requirements for federal workers and people working for large corporations and health care facilities serving Medicare and Medicaid patients, as well as expanded access to testing and other measures.

As discussed elsewhere in this blog, Trump judges have already blocked nationwide the vaccine requirements concerning health care workers and large corporations. Georgia and six other states filed a lawsuit to challenge the contractor requirement as well. Trump judge Baker issued an order that applied not just to these states, but also nationwide, blocking the contractor requirement as well. Baker claimed that the plaintiffs were likely to prove that Congress “did not clearly authorize” the President to issue such a “public health”-related order, as opposed to orders dealing with “administrative and management issues” to “promote efficiency and economy” in contracting.  In a brief paragraph, Baker decided that the injunction should apply nationwide, based on the fact that he had allowed a trade association of contractors with members “all over the country” to intervene and his view that “limiting the relief” to those actually “before the court” would be “unwieldy” and “cause more confusion.”

Even before Baker’s order, a number of experts, and even the Republican attorney general of Arizona, had suggested that a successful challenge to the federal contractor requirement was a “long shot.”  This was because, as other experts have explained, there is clear precedent and a long “history of broad discretion” for the federal government to “impose requirements” on those who contract with it, and it is questionable for challengers  to argue that “they want the federal money to go to the businesses but they don’t want to comply with the rule.” And the Eleventh Circuit has already criticized the nationwide injunction issued concerning health workers, noting that both “[j]urists and scholars have called into question both the wisdom and propriety” of such orders.

Despite all this, until and unless his ruling is stayed or overturned, Trump judge Baker has indefinitely blocked yet another important and lawful vaccine requirement and will clearly harm our nation’s efforts against COVID-19. The case is yet another example of the importance, as part of our fight for our courts, of the Senate confirming fair-minded judges who can counteract such troubling decisions and uphold appropriate rules that protect Americans’ health and safety.