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Federal Courts Issue Preliminary Finding That Biden Administration Exceeded its Authority in Two More Cases Related to Vaccine Mandates

On November 30, 2021 federal courts in Kentucky and Louisiana preliminarily blocked the Biden administration from implementing two aspects of its vaccine mandate: (1) in Kentucky, the U.S. District Court blocked the Biden administration from imposing a COVID-19 vaccine requirement on federal contractors and subcontractors in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee; and (2) in Louisiana, the Court held that health care workers won't be federally required for now to get the COVID-19 shot nationwide, finding that the federal executive branch does not have the constitutional authority to implement the vaccine requirement at issue in that case. The article linked here contains links to both entire decisions, which are interesting in that they go to great lengths to make clear that this is a process issue, not a political one. Put another way, even if you believe that everyone should be vaccinated, the Courts found that these methods are not justified.

These cases follow on the heels of a decision early in November by the 5th Circuit, which found that the Biden administration's attempt to use the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's ("OSHA's") emergency rulemaking power to require businesses with 100 or more employees to implement vaccine or testing requirements by January 4th or face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation "grossly exceeds OSHA's statutory authority." 

The Biden administration is expected to appeal these decisions, and whether or not they are overturned, their mere announcement may have already had the desired effect. As seemingly evidenced by the eviction moratorium implemented by the Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") over the summer, which was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court, the current administration does not shy away from taking tenuous legal positions to advance its agenda. As a business owner or private citizen attempting to navigate a complex and ever-changing legal landscape, it is important to understand that the announcement of any new law impacting your business or family is likely only the beginning, and you should not assume that the agency announcing that law or regulation has the authority to do so.

"The question presented here is narrow," he wrote. "Can the president use congressionally delegated authority to manage the federal procurement of goods and services to impose vaccines on the employees of federal contractors and subcontractors? In all likelihood, the answer to that question is no."