Opinion: These Supreme Court Arguments Are About Far More Than Vaccine Mandates

Opinion: These Supreme Court Arguments Are About Far More Than Vaccine Mandates

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Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor, adjunct professor of clinical law at NYU School of Law, lecturer-in-law at Columbia Law School and a CNN legal analyst. The opinions expressed here are her own. Read more opinion at CNN.

(CNN)Covid-19 vaccine mandates are up for consideration at the US Supreme Court once again, with arguments set for Friday — but this time with a couple of twists. Two consolidated cases have made their way to the high court for emergency action, meaning the appellants are seeking to influence whether these mandates take effect now, while litigation proceeds, over whether they are legal and constitutional.

One of the cases involves the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-testing requirement for employees of large businesses. The other addresses the administration’s vaccine mandate (which includes medical and religious exemptions) on health care providers receiving funding through Medicare or Medicaid.

You might be thinking that the Supreme Court had already ruled on numerous cases about Covid-19 vaccine mandates — and you would be correct.

But these two cases are a bit different. Because they involve actions by federal agencies — the Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services — the key legal question raised here is not whether the actions are reasonable and necessary in light of the pandemic, but whether Congress provided the agencies with the authority to issue these directives under the relevant statutes. The states challenging the federal mandates have also argued that they impinge unconstitutionally on state sovereignty.

As a result, the prior decisions and analyses of the Court in mandate-related cases are not particularly helpful in predicting what the justice will do. Nor will the rulings here necessarily affect further efforts by states, localities and private businesses to determine their own vaccination policies. Instead, the potential importance of the rulings here could be in foreshadowing the conservative majority’s view of executive power: specifically, how much control the federal government has over rule-making, an issue which obviously applies to legal questions far beyond vaccine mandates.

Of course, this is an emergency application and not a ruling on the merits, but part of the legal standard that justices must consider in determining whether to issue an injunction is whether they think those seeking to stop the mandates from taking effect are likely to prevail when the merits are ultimately considered. As a result, the ruling may provide a window into the court’s thinking that may be instructive to lower courts and serv

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Opinion: These Supreme Court arguments are about far more than vaccine mandates

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