Two Trump-Appointed Judges Uphold Block of Biden's Vaccine Mandate for Companies

Three judges all appointed by conservative presidents — two Trump nominees and a Reagan nominee — rejected the Biden administration’s attempt to lift a stay on its vaccine mandate for private employers, saying it was “staggeringly overbroad.” It’s a decision that emphasizes the massive effect Trump had on the appeals courts during his one term in office.

The judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans allowed a ban to remain Friday blocking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine mandate from going into effect. The mandate states that employees of companies with more than 100 workers must be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or submit to regular testing. Trump appointee Judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote that the mandate “threatens to decimate [companies’] workforces (and business prospects) by forcing unwilling employees to take their shots, take their tests, or hit the road.”

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The case stems from a lawsuit filed in early November by filed by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican. Last week, the court granted an emergency stay of the mandate. This is far from the only suit against the vaccine mandate. At least 27 states have opposed the mandate in court since it was announced on Nov. 4.

In Friday’s opinion, Engelhardt said that maintaining the stay “is firmly in the public interest.”

“From economic uncertainty to workplace strife, the mere specter of the mandate has contributed to untold economic upheaval in recent months,” he wrote. The court also said it is skeptical that Covid-19 presents the specific type of “grave danger” to workers that OSHA is charged with protecting them from.

Despite serving for only four years, Trump appointed nearly the same amount of appellate judges as Obama. Trump appointed 54 federal judges to appeals courts in four years, meaning he appointed them at twice the pace of Obama, who had 55 appointees across two terms. As of Jan. 2021, according to Pew Research, 30 percent of the nation’s active appeals court judges were Trump appointees. Trump’s appellate appointments shifted the balance on a number of courts. Many that had a majority of Democratic nominees at the start of his term ended with a Republican-appointed majority by the time Trump left office. Trump also had an outsized influence on the Supreme Court, appointing three judges on the nine-seat court.

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