Attorney Tom Fernandez and his firm Fernandez Law represented the plaintiffs, 100 of whom are first responders who filed a lawsuit against the cities of Charleston and North Charleston, Charleston County, and the St. Johns Fire District over the mandates.
“They felt that it was nothing short of government coercion to get the vaccine,” Fernandez told The Epoch Times. “We filed a lawsuit in state court alleging their constitutional protections. They did not want the vaccine. They believed it was their religious right to refuse it. They believed it was their right to free speech, right to privacy, and their right to bodily autonomy to not get the vaccine.”
Judge David Norton with the U.S. District Court in South Carolina said in a statement that it isn’t the court’s role to impose employer policies that would “best strike a balance of the competing interests of a pandemic that has plagued not just this state or country, but the world, for almost two years.”
“His points he made in his order yesterday were basically regurgitated nightly news talking points,” Fernandez said. “They had no facts. There was nothing substantiative. It was basically, ‘COVID is an emergency and hospitals are full. There are no ventilators available, and that the ICUs have no more beds available.’”
Fernandez said they presented to the court data from local hospitals that showed that COVID-19 infections are on a decline across the state and the nation, with less than half of the ventilators being used, and of those, only 7 percent were being used by COVID-19 patients.
The judge chose those talking points over the constitutional protections of police officers and firefighters, Fernandez said.
Initially, city employees were to be vaccinated by Nov. 5, but North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey extended it to Nov. 19 after the ruling.
“This is essential to provide a safe working environment for city employees and to deliver safe and efficient services to our citizens,” Summey said. “The city is hopeful that some plaintiffs, having read Judge Norton’s order, may now wish to comply with the vaccination policy in order to retain employment.”
Many of the employees with whom Fernandez has spoken, he said, “are standing their ground.”
“We have mayors who think it’s only going to be a handful of police officers and firefighters who are going to be terminated,” Fernandez said. “They are going to suddenly find on day one that they are short a large percentage of their department.”