“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 Judge Michael Liburdi in Arizona joined other Trump judges and issued a preliminary injunction in that state against the Biden administration’s requirement that employees of federal contractors be vaccinated against COVID-19. The January 2022 ruling was in Brnovich v Biden.
As part of its efforts to combat the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden administration required that corporations and others who contract and do business with the federal government ensure that their workers on federal projects are vaccinated against COVID-19. The requirement applies specifically to new or modified contracts. As discussed earlier in this blog, corporations and Republican states filed a number of challenges to this rule, including one in Arizona by state Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Even though he recognized that a nationwide injunction against the contractor requirement is already under appeal, Trump judge Liburdi ruled that a preliminary injunction should issue against the requirement as applied to Arizona.
Liburdi’s arguments were similar to those in other Trump judge anti-vax decisions, and went even further in some respects. For example, he maintained that the justification for a vaccine requirement against the debilitating and deadly COVID-19 pandemic was no stronger than a claim that the President could mandate that “all federal contractor employees” must “refrain from consuming soda or eating fast food” because of a determination that “obesity, diabetes, and other health issues were linked to the consumption” of such food and drink. He maintained that the possible economic harm to the state and other contractors should be considered “irreparable” and rejected the federal government’s demonstrated concern that an injunction against the vaccine requirement will increase the “spread of COVID-19 among millions” of employees of “federal contractors, and the members of the public with whom they interact,” as well as hampering “the efficiency” and work of “the contractors on which the federal government depends.” Liburdi’s decision also contradicts the views of experts about the precedent and long “history of broad discretion” for the federal government to “impose requirements” on those who contract with it.
As with the requirements concerning vaccination of health care workers and employees of large businesses, the validity of the vaccination rules concerning federal contractors is likely to be resolved ultimately by the Supreme Court. In the meantime, this case provides yet another illustration of the continuing injury caused by the decisions of Trump judges and justices blocking vaccination requirements related to COVID-19. It is one more example of the importance, as part of our fight for our courts, of the Senate continuing to promptly confirm fair-minded judges who will fairly rule on the importance and validity of measures designed to protect Americans’ health and safety from the dangers of COVID-19.