Amy Coney Barrett Strikes Surprising Killer Blow Against Vaccine Mandate Defiance

Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett struck a surprising blow against those seeking to defy COVID vaccine mandates on Thursday when she dismissed a challenge to a college's mandate without comment.

A group of eight students at Indiana University sought an emergency injunction from the Supreme Court against their college's vaccine mandate. In her role supervising the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Barrett reviewed the motion and denied it.

Barrett chose not to refer the matter to the full nine-justice court and offered no explanation for her decision in a move that could have wider implications for vaccine mandates across the nation.

The plaintiffs, represented by conservative attorney James Bopp Jr., had failed to convince judges of the district and circuit courts of the merits of their argument.

Bopp filed an emergency application for an injunction on August 6, which Barrett dismissed on Thursday.

That decision could be an indication of how the Supreme Court may rule on the legality of vaccine mandates.

The students argued that Indiana University's mandate violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Barrett, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, is likely to have disappointed conservatives and others opposed to vaccine mandates or taking the vaccine in general, but her decision is consistent with precedent.

Though Barrett didn't offer an explanation for dismissing the application, U.S. District Judge Damon R. Leichty, who is also a Trump appointee, pointed to the 1905 case Jacobson v. Massachusetts when he ruled against the students in June.

In that case, the Supreme Court upheld the power of states to enforce compulsory vaccinations. The disease in question at the time was smallpox. Later rulings built on the precedent set by Jacobson, including 1921's Zucht v. King, in which the court held that the school district in San Antonio, Texas, could exclude students who hadn't received required vaccinations.

Judge Leichty noted in June: "To answer the question today, the court travels back in time to 1905: a time before the modern tiers of constitutional analysis (strict scrutiny and rational basis) and one rampaged by the smallpox epidemic."

"In that year, the United States Supreme Court issued a leading decision in answer to this question," he said. A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit later upheld Leichty's ruling. All three of those judges were Republican appointees.

Barrett's refusal to grant emergency relief or to allow the case to come before the full court may be an indication the court isn't willing to revisit a 100-year-old precedent.

While the court has a 6-3 conservative majority, that doesn't necessarily mean a majority exists to overturn Jacobson or even to hear a challenge to settled precedent.

As more school districts, colleges and employers begin requiring vaccination against COVID, further legal challenges are possible, but if Barrett's recent decision is any indication, they may prove unsuccessful.

Newsweek has asked the Bopp Law Firm for comment.

Amy Coney Barrett Stands During a Photo
Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett stands during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on April 23, 2021. Barrett denied an application for an injunction against a university's vaccine mandate on Thursday. Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images