Chicago, Illinois – On Friday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied Indiana University's motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging its COVID vaccination mandate for students, so the appellate court will hear the Student's challenge on the merits.
In May this year, IU announced it will be requiring all students, faculty, and staff to receive COVID vaccinations before they can return to IU for the fall semester with stringent and limited exemptions to the Mandate for those with religious or medical exemptions. Even if a student is granted an exemption they are still subject to rigorous extra requirements, regardless of why they received an exemption, including masking, regular testing and possible quarantining. In June, The Bopp Law Firm, on behalf of IU students, filed a federal lawsuit against IU to preserve students' rights to bodily integrity and autonomy, and of medical treatment choice.
Students filed a motion for preliminary injunction, which was denied by the district court on July 18th. Students then appealed to the Seventh Circuit. On August 27th, IU moved to dismiss the appeal.
In its motion to dismiss, IU argued that, since school has already begun and the Students challenging its mandate had received exemptions or “withdrawn” from IU, they no longer had standing to bring the case and, as a result, the case was moot and should be dismissed.
The Students opposed IU's motion, pointing out that even the exempted students still had to comply with parts of IU's Mandate that unvaccinated students do not, and that this type of case could not be fully resolved in the limited amount of time between IU's Mandate announcement and the start of the fall semester. In addition, the two students IU claimed had “withdrawn” had actually deferred their attendance at IU pending the resolution of this case. The Seventh Circuit denied IU's motion to dismiss, which means it agrees the students have standing and the issues before the appellate court are not moot.
“Today's ruling allows this fight to continue for the Students and that they will have their constitutional claims decided on the merits” states James Bopp, Jr., of The Bopp Law Firm, lead counsel in the lawsuit. “IU claims plenary authority to require students to do anything IU feels necessary for health and safety of its students, no matter what fundamental constitutional rights of the student are violated, similar to how inmates in a prison are treated. However, IU students are not convicted and incarcerated prisoners, but are adults entitled to make their own medical treatment decisions. Thus, IU's Mandate is unconstitutional and we look forward to proving that in court. Government actors, from a local official to the President of the United States, need to remember that, under the Constitution their power is limited. The Constitution rests on the foundation that we don't receive our rights from the government—it prevents the government from infringing on those rights without a compelling justification, which does not exist now for college-aged students.”