Liberal Justices Pen Rare Joint-Dissent Over Vaccine Mandate Ban

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This week, the U.S. Supreme Court unveiled a decision blocking the Biden administration from moving forward with a federal requirement for employees at certain large companies to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo frequent testing and wear face masks, although the court did allow a vaccination requirement for workers at health care facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding to be enforced. Still, shutting down the vaccination-or-testing requirement for large companies could put people in danger, and the three liberal Justices currently on the Supreme Court — including Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer — shared a dissenting opinion sharply criticizing the conservative majority for their decision.

In a selection highlighted by reporter Mark Joseph Stern, the trio of Justices spoke of the need to rely upon the judgments of experts amid challenges such as those currently poised by the COVID-19 pandemic — something that the conservative majority, including three Justices nominated by Trump, did not do in this instance. The liberal Justices wrote as follows:

‘And then, there is this Court. Its Members are elected by, and accountable to, no one. And we “lack[] the background, competence, and expertise to assess” workplace health and safety issues… When we are wise, we know enough to defer on matters like this one. When we are wise, we know not to displace the judgments of experts, acting within the sphere Congress marked out and under Presidential control, to deal with emergency conditions. Today, we are not wise. In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible. Without legal basis, the Court usurps a decision that rightfully belongs to others.’

The decision by the Supreme Court turns back a recent decision by the majority on a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In that instance, Judge Jane B. Stranch observed that the “record establishes that Covid-19 has continued to spread, mutate, kill and block the safe return of American workers to their jobs… To protect workers, OSHA can and must be able to respond to dangers as they evolve.” Read more at this link.

Featured Image (edited): via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and available under a Creative Commons License