A handful of states have joined the growing list of jurisdictions involved in challenges to the legality of federal vaccination mandates for government contractors promulgated under Executive Order 14042. Over the federal government’s objections, Magistrate Judge David D. Noce of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri entered an order sustaining a preliminary injunction that prohibits the enforcement of COVID-19 vaccination mandates for employees of federal contractors. (Missouri v. Biden, No. 4:21 CV 1300 DDN, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 242142, at *3, 22-23 (Dec. 20, 2021).) The ruling was granted in favor of a group of plaintiff states—Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. (Id. at *5, 22-23.)
This court’s analysis falls in line with that of several other federal courts,1 ruling that several of the plaintiffs had adequate standing to challenge the vaccine mandate2 and that the mandate likely exceeds presidential authority granted under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act (FPASA).3 (Id. at *7-16.) The court also determined that the mandate “likely does not violate the Spending Clause, one of Congress's enumerated powers . . . [and] that plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on their claim of Tenth Amendment violation.” (Id. at *18.) However, this did not prevent the court from entering a preliminary injunction. The court assessed costs associated with mandate compliance and “conclude[d] that plaintiffs w[ould] suffer irreparable harm in their capacity as federal contractors.” (Id. at *18-21.) After weighing such harms against the public’s interest, the court ruled for the plaintiffs and found such factors to “weigh in favor of a preliminary injunction.” (Id. at *21-22.) The scope of the injunction was limited to “plaintiff-States [that we]re properly before the Court.” (Id. at *22.)
Status of Injunctions Nationwide
In addition to being litigated in the Eastern District of Missouri, this issue has been brought before federal courts in Kentucky,4 Georgia5 and Florida.6 The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has also been recently involved. Following the decision to grant an injunction in Georgia v. Biden, the federal government sought an appeal.7 Concurrent with this appeal, the government moved to stay the preliminary injunction.8 On December 17, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit denied the federal government’s motion, determining that the government failed to “establish one of ‘the most critical’ factors—that it will be irreparably injured absent a stay.” (Georgia v. President, Case No. 21-14269-F (11th Cir. Dec. 17, 2021).) The Eleventh Circuit has yet to rule on the government’s appeal.
1 See, e.g., Kentucky v. Biden, Civil No. 3:21-cv-00055-GFVT, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 228316, at *44 (E.D. Ky. Nov. 30, 2021); Georgia v. Biden, Civil No. 1:21-cv-163, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 234032, at *39 (S.D. Ga. Dec. 7, 2021); Florida v. Nelson, Civil No. 8:21-cv-2524-SDM-TGW, Dkt. No. 37 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 22, 2021) (granting a preliminary injunction after finding a “substantial likelihood that Executive Order 14042 exceeds the President’s authority under FPASA”).
2 Despite finding the plaintiffs’ parens patriae claims to constitute “challenges to the operation of the federal vaccine mandate” for which “[p]laintiffs d[id] not have standing,” the court ultimately determined that “Missouri ha[d] standing with regard to both sovereign interests and federal contractor status, its standing . . . sufficient to permit review.” Missouri v. Biden, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 242142 at *7-11.
3 “[P]laintiffs are likely to succeed on the issue of whether there is a sufficiently close nexus between efficiency and economy in procurement and the vaccination mandate. . . . [Because] if . . . EO 14,042 establishes a sufficient nexus, then the President would be able to mandate virtually any public health measure that would result in a healthier contractor workforce. . . .” Id. at *14-15.