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SCOTUS Fast-Tracks Vaccine Mandate Challenges

The Supreme Court will hear multiple challenges to Biden’s vaccine mandates.

by | Dec 23, 2021 | Articles, Law

In two surprising late orders issued Wednesday, Dec. 22, the United States Supreme Court announced it would hear numerous challenges to vaccine mandates issued by the Biden administration. The High Court has fast-tracked the cases, setting oral arguments for Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. It will be the first matter argued before the Supreme Court in the new year on a day not previously set aside for oral argument. The Court consolidated at least four separate appeals into just two cases. One addresses the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccine rule imposed on businesses of a certain size, while the other regards mandates at health care facilities that take federal funding.

New banner Legal Affairs with ScottAs Amy Howe at SCOTUSBlog reports:

“The cases came to the Court last week on an emergency basis, and the formal question in both disputes is whether the government should be allowed to enforce the policies while litigation challenging them continues. But the justices’ views on whether to grant emergency relief will likely be influenced by their views on the merits of the underlying challenges themselves.”

Biden v. Big Business Employees

In September, President Biden directed OSHA to issue a rule requiring private-sector employers with 100 or more workers to direct that employees either get an approved COVID-19 vaccination or produce a negative test on a weekly basis. The agency did so on Nov. 9, and the court challenges came fast and furious from several corners. A ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the mandate until the 6th Circuit reinstated the order. The Supreme Court will hear challenges to the directive from a coalition of business challengers led by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), as well as from several U.S. states that have Republicans in charge.

Supreme Court of the United States

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Karen Harned, Executive Director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center, said, “NFIB remains opposed to this rule that restricts the freedom of small business owners to decide how best to operate their own businesses and imposes unwarranted burdens on small businesses that further threaten the small business recovery.”

Federal Funds, Federal Regulations

The second case the Court will hear concerns the vaccine mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services on Nov. 4. The order applies to most workers at health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds and requires them to be vaccinated, or exempted due to medical or religious considerations. Rulings by multiple federal judges in different states suspended enforcement of the mandate’s implementation. On Thursday, Dec. 16, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to overturn those suspensions and allow the mandate to remain active while challenges to the law proceeded through the lower courts. The government application said, “The exceptionally urgent need to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure for Medicare and Medicaid patients given the anticipated winter surge in infections tips the equities overwhelmingly in favor of a stay.”

The orders from the Court deferred all applications for stays regarding the mandates pending the outcome of the oral arguments. Each case is allotted an hour for argument, a standard amount of time. Just over two weeks from application to an argument is light-speed for the Supreme Court, which usually schedules cases well in advance.

Read more from Scott D. Cosenza. 

Read More From Scott D. Cosenza, Esq.

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