The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 13 declined to take up a lawsuit filed by four New Jersey nurses to challenge a now-scrapped state COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
In early 2022, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order that "unvaccinated covered workers must obtain their first dose of the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccination by January 27, 2022,” adding that those workers have to give "adequate proof" they've received all their shots by Feb. 28 of that year. Those who do not provide sufficient proof "must be considered noncompliant."
In an appeal to the high court, the nurses argued that the vaccine mandate violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which they argued encompasses their right to refuse to get a medical procedure and their right to privacy. They also said the rule violated the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
Last year, a U.S. district judge ruled against the nurses, saying they "[failed] to demonstrate likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the Executive Orders violate their liberty rights under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment" and also failed "to demonstrate immediate and irreparable injury."
It's not the first time the U.S. Supreme Court has turned away a challenge to vaccine mandates. In 2022, the court declined to hear a challenge by Missouri and nine other states to President Joe Biden's COVID-19 mandate that had been issued for health care facilities that get federal funds; that mandate was later rescinded as the public health emergency ended earlier this year.
The Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in January 2022 to let the Biden administration enforce the health care worker mandate while litigation on its legal merits continued in lower courts. At the same time, the justices decided 6–3 to halt the administration's rule requiring vaccines or weekly COVID-19 tests for employees at businesses with at least 100 employees.
"This Court sees no rational basis for not allowing unvaccinated classroom teachers in amongst an admitted population of primarily unvaccinated students," Judge Porzio wrote in the ruling. "As such, the decision to summarily deny the classroom teachers amongst the Panel Petitioners based on an undue hardship, without any further evidence of individualized analysis, is arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable. As such, each classroom teacher amongst the Panel Petitioners is entitled to a religious exemption from the Vaccine Mandate."