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Fed. judge grants preliminary injunction on vaccine mandate for federal contractors

Alexandria judge grants motion filed by three states against the Biden Administration’s mandate
An Alexandria judge has granted a motion filed by three states against the Biden Administration’s mandate.
Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 5:04 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Judge Dee Drell, a federal judge with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Alexandria, has granted a motion filed by the states of Louisiana, Indiana and Mississippi for a preliminary injunction on the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors.

In his reasoning, Judge Drell noted that the granted injunction is limited to contracts, grants or any other agreement between the plaintiff states and the government. Judge Drell said his ruling did not apply to contracts between private contractors and the national government, writing that there was no evidence presented in the argument a week ago on private contractors. However, he also noted the preliminary injunction granted by a federal judge in Georgia last week, which has a nationwide impact.

Judge Drell’s ruling gives Louisiana, Indiana and Mississippi a backup plan just in case the 11th Circuit reverses the Georgia decision.

“Even though a Georgia court has issued a nationwide injunction, there’s a possibility that a court could change that over in the 11th Circuit,” said Murrill. “So, we wanted to make sure that our states remained protected.”

Over the weekend, the Biden Administration filed a motion to “stay” or delay proceedings in the case over the weekend, a motion which Judge Drell said would only prolong “uncertainty.” The judge also argued it’s better to have district courts rule on litigation regarding the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandates, ahead of, what will likely be many, appellate courts taking up the matter nationwide.

The federal contractor mandate was a part of President Biden’s executive order (EO 14042), aimed at promoting efficiency and economy with the ongoing pandemic. With the issuance of the executive order, Biden charged the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force with determining appropriate COVID-19 safeguards for contractors under the order. These safeguards were approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The guidelines were then left in the charge of the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (FAR Council), which was to implement the guidance once approved by the OMB. The FAR Council issued a memorandum that was supposed to inform contractors of the new guidance under EO 14042.

However, in his ruling, Judge Drell noted there are “bizarre coverage differences between EO 14042 and the FAR Memo.” Where the executive order is meant to apply only to new contracts, extensions or renewals, the FAR Memo “strongly encourages agencies apply the requirements of its guidance broadly.” Murrill and one of her witnesses, Dr. Jim Henderson, president of the University Louisiana System, argued the broad nature of the guidance did not explicitly exclude grants or current contracts, which EO 14042 declared to be excluded. Instead, Judge Drell wrote, “[The FAR Memo] clearly extends far beyond the reach of EO 14042 by encouraging the strong-arming of contractors to include deviation clauses into existing contracts and grants.”

Additionally, Judge Drell agreed and adopted the 5th Circuit’s finding of public interest in its decision to enjoin the OSHA vaccine mandate, which, in part, stated, “The public interest is also served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions - even, or perhaps particularly when those decisions frustrate government officials.”

The 5th Circuit also partially upheld the CMS vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in Medicare and Medicaid facilities, which required the COVID-19 vaccine for employees.

“We now have the 5th Circuit in two other mandates [OSHA and CMS] that were tied together with this one affirming injunctions, and I wouldn’t expect to see a different result with this case,” said Murrill.

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