A federal judge has upheld Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s authority to impose a vaccine mandate as part of a public health order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

U.S. District Court Judge Martha Vázquez rejected two New Mexico women’s legal challenge to the governor’s order requiring health care employees, teachers and other “high risk” workers to be immunized unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption.

The lawsuit also contested the governor’s order calling for anyone 12 and older to be fully vaccinated before they attend the New Mexico State Fair — an order that led to the fair’s junior livestock show being canceled.

The women sought an injunction to block the vaccine requirements from being enforced.

But the judge ruled the arguments claiming the vaccine is unreliable and the mandate infringes on personal liberty did not outweigh the state having to take measures to protect public health.

“The court thus finds that plaintiffs have failed to establish that the balance of harms weighs in their favor or that granting the requested injunction would not be adverse to the public interest,” Vázquez wrote in her decision.

Attorney A. Blair Dunn, who represents the women, said he already has filed an appeal and believes they have a chance of winning later, especially if the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This idea that you don’t have a right to bodily integrity, you don’t have a right to engage in your chosen profession and the state can strip that away … I don’t see that holding up to real constitutional scrutiny,” Dunn said.

The lawsuit named Lujan Grisham and acting Health Department Secretary David Scrase as defendants.

In an email, a spokesman for the governor wrote the court’s decision validates the health order.

“The Lujan Grisham administration will continue to aggressively defend its public health policies against all attacks and efforts to subvert them and will continue to be successful in defending them,” spokesman Tripp Stelnicki wrote. “These policies are backed by the science, they are informed by public health expertise, and they have saved and are saving lives in New Mexico.”

Jennifer Blackford of Bernalillo County, a registered nurse at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, is one of the two women who filed the lawsuit.

Presbyterian Healthcare Services, which operates that hospital and others in the state, recently announced it would require its entire workforce to be vaccinated.

In a late August affidavit, Blackford said she had refused the shots because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had only given the vaccines emergency authorization, making them experimental.

But during that same week, the FDA fully approved the Pfizer vaccine and is expected to do likewise for Moderna in the coming weeks.

Dunn said Blackford was put on four months of unpaid administrative leave and must get vaccinated in that time or be deemed to have quit her job.

The other plaintiff, Talisha Valdez, a Clayton resident, opposes vaccination for herself and her two children.

Her kids were going to compete in the junior livestock event at the fair before it was cancelled. One child is 12 and would’ve been required to get the shots to participate.

Valdez said she had no comment about the judge’s decision. In an earlier interview, she said the state shouldn’t compel people to be vaccinated.

“It should be a choice,” Valdez said.

The judge cited a 1905 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Cambridge, Mass., had the authority to require smallpox vaccinations of every resident.

“A community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members,” the judge wrote, quoting the high court’s majority opinion.

Dunn countered subsequent court rulings require states to have narrow criteria for “forcible or involuntary application of medications.” New Mexico has not met that standard, he argued.

Vázquez’s ruling is the latest court victory for Lujan Grisham’s health orders. Courts have upheld her power to restrict indoor dining and to shut down businesses when cases were surging.

The Democratic governor’s mandate dovetails with President Joe Biden’s recent executive order that requires vaccinations or weekly tests for federal workers, companies with at least 100 workers and people employed at facilities that receive federal funding.

As of Friday, 79.2 percent of adult New Mexicans had received at least one dose and 69.5 percent had completed their series of shots.

Still, Scrase and other health officials say it’s vital to get an even greater share of the population immunized to permanently quell the pandemic.

(17) comments

Mike Johnson

The fix is in with any judge here in NM, MLG has them so afraid of political retribution and most likely is lining their pockets in some way, they are not capable of impartial, objective, and fair justice when she is involved.

Barry Rabkin

Nope no "fix" ... only legal and constitutional logic. No person has the so-called freedom to expose any other person to infection, hospitalization, and death. The US Supreme Court will rule in favor of vaccine mandates.

Charlotte McClanahan

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Richard Irell

How could you possibly miss the fact that it was a federal judge who ruled on this case (it’s literally the second and third words in the article)?

What kind of juice do you think a governor has with a federal court?

Mike Johnson

This judge is #1 Hispanic....#2 lives in NM....#3 is a woman. I think the prejudice and bias is clear. But this will be at the Court of Appeals soon, and then SCOTUS, where Jacobson will be revisited under a federal, not state mandate.....https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/08/25/opinion/weak-constitutional-case-vaccine-mandates/

Robert Fields

Yeah, Mike, you are more right than you realize. The prejudice and bias is indeed clear - but not where you suspect.

Mike Johnson

Oh, and I should add, #4 the judge is a far left wing progressive (from California, Notre Dame Law, and appointed by Clinton, jeez_).....even more bias and prejudice against conservative people.

Craig Meyer

Wow. You managed to be racist and sexist in the same sentence. Those years of practice are paying off.

Richard Irell

Thanks for showing your true colors. “Those people” do tend to stick together.

Racist & misogynist.

And, BTW, federal judges rule on federal law, not state.

Robert Fields

Care to provide some evidence that MLG is bribing judges? Any shred of evidence, Mike? Got anything at all?

Mike Johnson

The results speak volumes, lack of available evidence of bribery, cronyism, etc. is not the same as there being none involved.

Robert Fields

First logical thing you’ve said here. Lack of evidence isn’t proof there wasn’t bribery or cronyism — But it’s even less proof that bribery or cronyism was involved.

So in other words, you are admitting you are baselessly making a claim of bribery and cronyism because you yourself said there isn’t any evidence of bribery and cronyism. You just suspect there was for reasons known only to you.

Thanks for the clarification.

Robert Fields

Michelle Lujan Grisham makes a few posters here apoplectic with the mask and vaccine mandates in the state. But MLG has done an excellent job navigating New Mexico through the covid pandemic without getting too many New Mexicans killed. Our death rates are relatively low (we were 33rd in the nation about a week ago) and businesses are open.

Contrast that with Ron DeSantis and Florida. DeSantis has single-handedly steered Florida to take the pandemic full broadsides and Florida - just the single state of Florida - is about to have more covid dead than US soldiers lost in Vietnam.

We’ve lost less than 5,000 New Mexicans to covid. Florida has lost over 50,000. Texas has lost over 60,000. The US lost 58,220 Americans in Vietnam.

Don Winslow has posted an amazing video dramatizing DeSantis’ failure to protect Floridians. Greg Abbott could do with a little reminding of his own failures in Texas.

Here’s the video about DeSantis:

https://twitter.com/donwinslow/status/1438610600033062921

Lujan Grisham isn’t perfect, but in the face of very vocal and even threatening, far right anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers, she has kept our deaths about as low as could be hoped. It’s too bad so many refuse to see or understand how much better off we are with MLG over lunatic far right governors like DeSantis and Abbott.

Barry Rabkin

Our Governor has done, and is doing, a superb job striving to minimize deaths and not have our healthcare system overrun throughout this global pandemic of a highly infectious deadly virus.

Robert Fields

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Stefanie Beninato

I am sorry but not showing at the state fair does not interfere with one's profession and if Ms Blackburn does not want to be vaccinated while working as a nurse perhaps she can find a job in Lea or Roosevelt counties where they too think that vaccines that have been given to 100,000s of people are still "experimental." There is no right to be hired by a private employer unless you can prove discrimination based on an existing protected category and naysayers/anti-vaxxers are not among those categories.

Charlotte McClanahan

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