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Federal judge upholds Indiana University’s vaccine mandate: Everything you need to know

By August 23, 2021September 25th, 2023No Comments

At DC Student Defense, many of the questions that we’re getting from our clients right now involve the COVID -19 vaccine. We’ve previously posted about the growing trend of universities implementing vaccine mandates for the fall semester.

However, a major court decision in July has developed the legal question of whether universities are allowed to require their students to get vaccinated.

What exactly was decided in this ruling? And what does it mean for students attending universities in the Washington, DC area?

The Ruling on Indiana University’s vaccine mandate

On Monday, July 19, U.S. District Court Judge Damon R. Leichty in Indiana ruled against a group of eight students who were suing Indiana University over the university’s vaccine requirement. They claimed that the mandate violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights to bodily integrity and autonomy.

Here’s how Leichty summed up his ruling:

Recognizing the significant liberty interest the students retain to refuse unwanted medical treatment, the Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty, and staff.

Additionally, he argued that the university has already made sufficient allowances for students’ Fourteenth Amendment rights by carving out exemptions for students with medical and religious objections, as well as students who are not attending classes in person.

This ruling upholds that the university’s vaccine mandate does not violate its students’ constitutional rights. However, the decision did not weigh in on whether the university’s vaccine mandate violates Indiana’s “immunization passport” law — one of many similar laws across the country that ban state entities from requiring proof of vaccination.

The plaintiffs’ attorney vowed to appeal Leichty’s ruling, and it’s almost certain that similar lawsuits will be popping up around the country this year. Whether challenging university vaccine mandates on a constitutional basis or a statutory basis, it’s entirely possible that this issue could find its way to the Supreme Court in the near future.

What this Means for DC students

So this significant ruling has established precedent in Indiana that universities are within their rights to require their students to get vaccinated. But what about DC?

As of July, these 7 universities have officially announced a vaccine mandate for Fall 2021:

  • American University
  • Gallaudet University
  • George Washington University
  • Georgetown University
  • Howard University
  • Trinity Washington University
  • University of the District of Columbia

There have not yet been any judicial rulings on the constitutionality or legality of these vaccine mandates in DC. However, there are a number of lawsuits in the pipelines already regarding similar issues.

The main takeaway for students around the country should be that there is now legal precedent for universities implementing COVID -19 vaccine mandates. That means that any legal challenge to a DC university’s vaccine mandate will face an uphill battle..

If you have any questions about these vaccine mandates, or you are being accused of a COVID -19 violation by your university, contact a student defense attorney in the DC area.

Contact a DC Student Defense Attorney Today

At DC Student Defense, we have experience representing clients who have been accused of violating their university’s COVID-19 regulations. It’s our goal to protect your rights and make sure you are receiving the full benefit of the education you’re paying for. Contact us today to talk about your case.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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