Challenges to President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private employers will be consolidated in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, a panel dominated by judges appointed by Republicans.
The Cincinnati-based court was selected Tuesday in a random drawing using ping-pong balls, a process employed when challenges to certain federal agency actions are filed in multiple courts.
The selection could be good news for those challenging the administration's vaccine requirement, which includes officials in 27 Republican-led states, employers and several conservative and business organizations. They argue the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have the authority to impose the mandate.
The challenges, along with some from unions that said the vaccine mandate didn't go far enough, were made this month in 12 circuit courts. Under an arcane system, it was up to the clerk of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation to select a ping-pong ball from a bin to choose where the cases would be heard.
It was a favorable outcome for Republicans. Eleven of the 16 full-time judges in the 6th Circuit were appointed by Republican presidents. Accounting for one of the Republican-appointed judges, Helene White, who often sides with judges appointed by Democrats and adding senior judges who are semi-retired but still hear cases, the split is 19-9 in favor of Republicans. Six of the full-time judges were appointed by former President Donald Trump.
Another court where a majority of judges were nominated by Republicans, the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, issued a ruling that put the mandate on hold.