The Biden administration this week petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse an order from a federal judge that requires the Navy to deploy Sailors even if they aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19.
The request came in a Monday filing from the Justice Department, which was a response to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s decision in a case brought by 35 SEALs and Sailors. In January, O’Connor ruled that the Navy can’t enforce its vaccinate mandate against the group and must deploy these SEALs and Sailors regardless of their vaccination status.
The Justice Department, on behalf of the Biden administration, asked the Supreme Court to block the part of the order that says the Navy must deploy these Sailors.
“This application seeks relief from a preliminary injunction that usurps the Navy’s authority to decide which servicemembers should be deployed to execute some of the military’s most sensitive and dangerous missions,” the Justice Department wrote in its submission. Respondents are a group of SEALs and other members of the elite Naval Special Warfare community.”
“The court’s preliminary injunction not only prohibits the Navy from applying the COVID-19 vaccination requirement to respondents, but also requires the Navy to assign and deploy them without regard to their lack of vaccinations notwithstanding military leaders’ judgment that doing so poses intolerable risks to safety and mission success,” Justice said. “Indeed, the Navy has informed this Office that the injunction has already compelled it to send one respondent to Hawaii for duty on a submarine against its military judgment.”
“The Navy has an extraordinarily compelling interest in ensuring that the servicemembers who perform those missions are as physically and medically prepared as possible. That includes vaccinating them against COVID-19, which is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest.”
Judge O’Connor’s decision so far applies only to the 35 SEALs and Sailors involved in the case, and not the entire Navy. But his decision has the potential to change the Navy’s policy for all enlistees, depending on the outcome of this and other challenges.
Since O’Connor’s decision, the plaintiffs in the case have charged that the Navy is retaliating against them for challenging the COVID vaccine mandate, and the suit has become a class action case that would apply to all Sailors.
According to Bloomberg, Justice Samuel Alito gave the group of SEALs and Sailors until March 14 to respond to the Justice Department’s request.
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