Supreme Court rejects nurses' lawsuit against NJ COVID-19 vaccine mandate 

Reuters/Jonathan Grant and Jirka Taylor

The United States Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from four nurses suing New Jersey over the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, allowing a lower court ruling in favor of the measure to stand.

In an orders list released Monday morning, the high court refused without comment to grant certiorari in the case of Katie Sczesny, et al. v. Murphy, Gov. of New Jersey, et al.

The refusal to hear oral arguments in the case allows for a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in favor of the now rescinded mandate to stand.

In January 2022, Gov. Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 283, which required healthcare workers and those who work in “congregate settings” to get the COVID-19 shot and booster.

“Unvaccinated covered workers must obtain their first dose of the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccination by January 27, 2022,” stated the executive order, which was based on earlier mandate orders.

“All covered workers must provide adequate proof that they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination by February 28, 2022 … Covered workers who are not up to date with their vaccinations, or for whom vaccination status is unknown or who have not provided sufficient proof of documentation, must be considered noncompliant for purposes of this Order.”

Later, Murphy issued Executive Order 294, which clarified that the previous order was meant to include only one booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and did not require a second booster.

“I encourage New Jerseyans who the CDC has advised would benefit from their second booster to roll up their sleeves and give themselves an added dose of defense against COVID-19,” said Murphy in a statement last year.

“The numbers here in New Jersey and from around the nation are clear — getting boosted is directly linked to less-severe COVID-19 symptoms and illness and far lower rates of hospitalization and death.”

In April 2022, Katie Sczesny, Jamie Rumfield, Debra Hagen, and Mariette Vitti filed suit against New Jersey over the executive order, arguing that the mandate “violates the liberty and privacy rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, including the right to refuse medical procedures and the right to not be medically surveilled by government actors.”

“It also violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment, and the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure, and the procedural due process clause,” continued the complaint.

“Executive Order 283 requires covered settings to allow for medical and religious exemptions to vaccination, however the State of New Jersey itself has 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.”

A district court ruled against the plaintiffs in June of last year, arguing that the nurses had “failed to demonstrate likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable injury” and that the “public interest would also suffer if the Court granted Plaintiffs' requested relief.”

Later, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit released an order declaring the lawsuit moot since the mandate was rescinded earlier this year.   

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