After the Supreme Court ruling, what legal justification do states and cities have for their own vaccine mandates?

Tyler S. Farley

With the SCOTUS knocking down the Biden federal vaccine mandate for private employers, it creates a big question for some of the biggest cities around the country.

What legal justification do they have for doing something the Supreme Court has now said is unconstitutional on a federal level.

As you may know, several large cities like New York, Chicago, L.A., and just today Washington D.C. ,have enacted their own vaccine mandates.

In places like New York, vaccinations are required before entering many businesses including gyms, bars, restaurants, and other facilities. Of course, this also includes the employees inside as well.

When it came to the federal vaccine mandate, lawyers for the Biden administration at least tried to use a legal theory to justify it. They searched through the law pertaining to OSHA’s authority in governing the workplace and singled out some vague language which they suggested gives them the power to bypass congress and make their own rules in an emergency.

This legal theory was soundly rejected by the SCOTUS in a 6-3 ruling. The majority decision stated that neither OSHA nor the federal government has the authority to mandate vaccines in the workplace without going through congress.

So if mandating vaccines on the federal level is unconstitutional, it must also be at the state level, right?

If anything, the states seem to be operating from an even more unconstitutional position as they didn’t even try to use any legal theory for their mandates. The governors or mayors simply declared the mandates were going to be enacted, and that was that.

So there is really no legal justification at all for the state and city vaccine mandates that are impacting tens of millions of people every day.

Of course, the states would probably argue that under their “emergency declarations” that they have the authority to implement such measures. This is why many states continue to extend their “state of emergency” even to this day.

But such an argument was shot down by the SCOTUS as well. Biden’s lawyers argued that the pandemic is a unique time in history and that justifies the unique legal loophole being used. But as you know, that was rejected. Unique situations almost never supersede the constitution, and many scholars argue they should never do so.

So this has me wondering when the first lawsuits will be filed against cities and states now that the SCOTUS has ruled against vaccine mandates for private employers.

Even if states dropped all mandates today, lawsuits could still be filed for damages incurred previously. So I would expect within the coming months we’ll have the first of these legal actions which will most likely end up in front of the Supreme Court as well.


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