As noted in our July 27, 2021 alert, Judge Damon R. Leichty of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana recently upheld Indiana University’s (“University”) mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy, denying a group of students’ request that the court enter a preliminary injunction preventing the University from implementing its policy.
On August 2, 2021, Judges Easterbrook, Scudder, and Kirsch of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied the students’ request for an injunction pending appeal in a four-page opinion. Based upon Jacobson v. Massachusetts, a 1905 United States Supreme Court case that held that a state may require all members of the public to be vaccinated against smallpox, the Seventh Circuit found that there could not be a constitutional problem with vaccination against COVID-19. The Court found it compelling that the University has religious and medical exemptions to its COVID-19 vaccine policy and does not require every adult member of the public to be vaccinated, just those who wanted to attend the University.
The Seventh Circuit emphasized that “[e]ach university may decide what is necessary to keep other students safe in a congregate setting” and that “[v]accination protects not only the vaccinated persons but also those who come into contact with them, and at a university close contact is inevitable.” The Seventh Circuit reasoned that “conditions of enrollment are normal and proper,” and if students are expected to surrender property (i.e., tuition) and are expected to follow a professor’s curriculum, “it is hard to see a greater problem with medical conditions that help all students remain safe when learning.” The Seventh Circuit also noted that “[a] university will have trouble operating when each student fears that everyone else may be spreading disease.”
We encourage you to reach out to one of the authors listed below or your Michael Best attorney with any questions or inquiries for additional guidance regarding the above.