The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined without comment to hear an appeal of a 2022 case brought by four Hunterdon Medical Center nurses who challenged the constitutionality of New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare professionals.
In an orders list, the nation’s highest court declined to grant certiorari in the case of Katie Sczesny, et al. v. Murphy, Gov. of New Jersey, et al. By refusing to hear oral arguments in the case, the Supreme Court is allowing a lower court decision that upheld the mandate in place at the time to stand.
The nurses – Katie Sczesny, Jamie Rumfield, Debra Hagen, and Mariette Vitti – had challenged the constitutionality of a series of executive orders issued by Gov. Phil Murphy in January, March and April of 2022. These orders collectively required workers in healthcare and congregate living settings to be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations and their first booster shot to protect patients’ health.
The nurses had sought an injunction that would have prevented their employer, Hunterdon County Medical Center, which was not a party to the lawsuit, from enforcing its vaccine booster policy per Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders.
U.S. District Court Judge Georgette Castner denied the preliminary injunction request on June 7, 2022, saying the plaintiffs had “failed to demonstrate likelihood of success on the merits and irreparable injury…” The judge said the state had a rational interest in protecting the health and safety of vulnerable patients and maintaining a safe environment for workers and the operation of healthcare services.
The plaintiffs later appealed the federal judge’s decision to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the lawsuit moot because by that time the governor’s vaccine mandate had been rescinded due to the waning of the pandemic and COVID-19 transmission rates.