A mandate by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) requiring state health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 was struck down Friday.
Onondaga County Supreme Court Justice Gerard Neri granted legal relief to plaintiffs who argued Hochul’s mandate exceeded her authority.
The plaintiffs filed an Article 78 proceeding with the county trial level court to prohibit further enforcement of the vax mandate. They claimed the governor and Health Commissioner Mary Bassett lacked authority to mandate adult vaccinations. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in June 2021, rescinded previous emergency COVID-19 orders. He had been granted special authority by the state legislature to act almost unilaterally to combat the pandemic’s spread.
“Despite the end of the emergency, on June 22, 2021, the Commissioner adopted the Mandate as a permanent regulation,” petitioners argued in their court filing.
The regulation would require all health care personnel in the state to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 vaccination unless they were granted an exemption.
Petitioners also alleged the imposed vaccination mandate was arbitrary and capricious, which would render it unenforceable. They noted the original mandate by Cuomo provided for religious exemptions, whereas Hochul’s did not, which was proof of capriciousness.
State attorneys disputed their argument about religious exemptions.
“The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death,” respondent attorneys argued.
Finally, the petitioners argued there is no rational basis for the mandate since the Department of Health (DOH) acknowledges the mandated vaccine fails to accomplish its state goal of preventing Covid spread.
They attached exhibits of news articles from vaccine proponents who said they were fully vaccinated and boosted but became infected with COVID-19 at least once, anyway.
Neri agreed in his ruling that the COVID-19 mandate is beyond the scope of authority granted the governor and health commissioner by state statute. He thus ruled the vax mandate “null, void and of no effect.” The judge prohibited Hochul or Bassett from either implementing or enforcing a COVID-19 mandate.
“DOH blatantly violated the boundaries of its authority as set forth by the Legislature,” he explained.
Neri also sided with petitioners claim regarding the arbitrary and capricious nature of the mandate.
“In true Orwellian fashion, Respondents acknowledge then-current COVID-19 shots do not prevent transmission,” the justice argued.
He further noted the phrase “fully vaccinated” was stated to be what the health department defined it as, which could change at the agency’s discretion.
“A term which is defined at the whim of an entity, subject to change without a moment’s notice contains all the hallmarks of ‘absurdity’ and is no definition at all,” Neri declared. “In the alternative, the Court finds the Mandate is arbitrary and capricious.”
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