SCOTUS to hear arguments in COVID vaccine-related emergency appeals on Jan. 7

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) scheduled oral arguments in and deferred decisions on emergency appeals related to two of the Biden administration’s COVID vaccination policies. This is a departure from the court’s typical procedure for resolving emergency appeals—known colloquially as the court’s shadow docket—where the court issues an order without hearing oral arguments. The arguments have been set for Jan. 7. The central question in the cases is whether the government can enforce the vaccine policies while litigation over the policies’ constitutionality continues in lower courts.

The first policy at issue is the administration’s COVID vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees, which requires qualifying businesses to either mandate and verify all its employees are vaccinated or test all unvaccinated employees for COVID weekly and require mask-wearing in the workplace. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit reinstated the mandate nationwide, several parties applied to the Supreme Court to block the 6th Circuit’s ruling. SCOTUS accepted two of these cases and will hear arguments in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Department of Labor and Ohio v. Department of Labor.

The second policy at issue is the rule that health care workers who participate in federal Medicare and Medicaid programs be fully vaccinated. The Biden administration came to the court asking it to allow enforcement of the rule after lower courts blocked it in approximately half of the states. The court will hear oral arguments on this policy in Biden v. Missouri and Becerra v. Louisiana.

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