On Nov. 13, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a lawsuit filed by four New Jersey nurses challenging a now-removed state COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The justices determined that they would not examine a decision from the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals that dismissed the nurses’ challenge as moot. In the Supreme Court’s list of orders, released on Nov. 13, the court rejected an appeal in the case, Katie Sczesny, et al. v. Murphy, Gov. of New Jersey, et al., without comment.
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,” and those workers would be required to give “adequate proof” they’d received all their shots by Feb. 28 of that year. Any who did not provide sufficient proof “must be considered noncompliant.”
The nurses, Debra Hagen, Jamie Rumfield, Katie Sczesny and Mariette Vitti, filed a lawsuit against the governor’s office, saying that while the order allowed for religious or medical exemptions, the state “mass-denied religious exemptions in state institutions, stating that accommodating people with religious exemptions would constitute an ‘undue burden’ on the state because the employees with religious objections to the COVID-19 injections are a ‘threat’ to the safety of others.”
In an appeal, the nurses argued that the vaccine mandate violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which they argued granted them the right to refuse a medical procedure and their right to privacy, as well as the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
They also argued that the booster mandate “violates the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions, which prohibits the government from conditioning a privilege on the surrender of a constitutional right.”
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.”
Murphy, a Democrat, signed an order in April of this year to lift the vaccine mandate for health care workers because, according to the governor, it aligns the state “with recent updates to federal requirements and reflects our different circumstances now, as compared to the past few years.”
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