NEW ORLEANS — President Joe Biden’s requirement that all federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 was upheld Thursday by a federal appeals court. In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed a lower court and ordered dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the mandate.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, who was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of Texas by President Donald Trump, had issued a nationwide injunction against the requirement in January.
When the case was argued at the 5th Circuit last month, administration lawyers had noted that district judges in a dozen jurisdictions had rejected a challenge to the vaccine requirement for federal workers before Brown ruled.
The administration argued that the Constitution gives the president, as the head of the federal workforce, the same authority as the CEO of a private corporation to require that employees be vaccinated.
Lawyers for those challenging the mandate had pointed to a recent Supreme Court opinion that the government cannot force private employers to require employee vaccinations.
Thursday's ruling was a rare win for the administration at the 5th Circuit, with 17 active judges dominated by Republicans, including six Trump appointees.
Judges Carl Stewart and James Dennis, both nominated to the court by President Bill Clinton, were in the majority. Judge Rhesa Barksdale, nominated by President George H.W. Bush, dissented, saying the relief the challengers sought does not fall under the Civil Service Reform act cited by the administration.