5th Circuit Court upholds federal judge's rule that blocks COVID vaccine mandate in 14 states
A Louisiana federal judge's ruling blocking President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers in 14 states was upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans Wednesday.
But the New Orleans court also ruled Louisiana Western District Judge Terry Doughty's nationwide injunction preventing the mandate apply only to the original 14 states who sued the government, noting other courts are considering similar cases in other states.
An identical injunction has also been issued by Missouri U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp for 10 other states.
“This vaccine rule is an issue of great significance currently being litigated throughout the country. Its ultimate resolution will benefit from ‘the airing of competing views’ in our sister circuits,” the ruling from three 5th Circuit judges said.
Republican Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry led the 14-state lawsuit against the Biden administration mandate.
“This court action does not change anything for Louisiana’s health care heroes; they remain protected by Judge Doughty’s injunction,” Landry said in a statement to USA Today Network.
Doughty wrote the Biden Administration doesn't have the authority to bypass Congress in issuing such a mandate.
"If the executive branch is allowed to usurp the power of the legislative branch to make laws, two of the three powers conferred by our Constitution would be in the same hands," he wrote. "If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency.
"During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties."
The emergency regulation issued Nov. 4 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would have required staff at providers that participate in the programs to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 6 and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.
It would have covered more than 17 million health care workers nationwide, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans had already blocked a broader Biden administration mandate that businesses with more than 100 workers require employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or wear masks and be tested weekly.
Landry was also the lead in that lawsuit.
Doughty, who was nominated to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump in 2017 and confirmed in 2018, acknowledged the case "will ultimately be decided by a higher court than this one."
"However, it is important to preserve the status quo in this case," he wrote. "The liberty interests of the unvaccinated requires nothing less."
The states that joined Louisiana in the lawsuit include Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.
Louisiana's Western District Court includes a large geographic swath of the state with offices in Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Monroe and Shreveport.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.