Judge requests info in Gainesville vaccine case

Judge's gavel
Judge's gavel

The judge overseeing the lawsuit involving the Gainesville employee vaccine mandate has ordered attorneys for the city and the plaintiffs to provide her with additional information before she rules on a city motion to lift her injunction.

Judge Monica Brasington of Florida’s Eighth Judicial Circuit issued an injunction on Sept. 22 to halt the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which required employees and contractors to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.

Brasington wrote in her injunction decision that requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine “invades and/or implicates the plaintiffs’ constitutionally protected right to privacy.”

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The city filed a motion on Oct. 4, asking Brasington to lift the injunction. Local attorney Jeff Childers, who represents more than 200 employees suing the city, filed a response to the motion two days later.

Brasington issued a brief order Monday requiring the attorneys from both sides to provide her with highlighted paper copies of legal cases that each used to make their arguments in the motion and response.

The judge also asked the two sides to submit competing orders regarding the city’s motion, which she will edit and use as a basis for her ruling. The city and plaintiffs’ attorneys have until Oct. 26 to deliver the highlighted cases and the proposed orders to the court.

In its motion to reconsider the injunction, the city argued that Brasington should not have applied strict scrutiny to the city’s mandate.

Strict scrutiny is the highest standard of judicial review that can apply to a law and involves the government proving that a law serves “a compelling public interest” and that the law is narrowly tailored enough to meet that public interest.

The city motion also argued that the judge didn’t distinguish between the city acting as an employer and the city acting as a local legislative body.

Although the city has requested Brasington lift her injunction on the original vaccine mandate, the city commission voted Sept. 23 to reconsider the mandate. The commission asked staff to work with the city’s unionized employees and to develop a new policy that reflects potential alternatives to vaccination, such as regular testing.

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