Former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explained in a Friday appearance on CNN that legal challenges to President Joe Biden’s employer vaccine mandate have no standing because the Supreme Court already settled the issue over a century ago. Analyses by scores of constitutional law experts align with Reich’s assessment.
“Mister Secretary, what about the threats of legal action? How solid do you think the legal ground is here for these new rules?” asked host John Berman.
“I don’t think there is any legal ground at all, John. For 105 years, the Supreme Court has made it very, very clear that they endorse vaccine mandates with regard to public health and particularly critical public health issues. 105 years ago it was smallpox. And one state government actually forced a smallpox vaccination on its population,” Reich replied.
In 1905, the Court ruled 7-2 in Jacobson versus Massachusetts – a case in which a minister sued the state over a fine imposed for refusing to get inoculated against smallpox – that one person’s individual rights do not supersede the health and safety of the general public.
“There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good,” the majority stated in its opinion. “On any other basis, organized society could not exist with safety to its members. Society based on the rule that each one is a law unto himself would soon be confronted with disorder and anarchy.”
Then-Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan opined that “real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others.”
That precedent, Reich argued on Friday, is still valid.
“There was an action, an appeal to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court said, look, public safety, public health warrants government action. That is the essence of our society. If government can’t take action on behalf of the people with regard to public health, then what good is the society?” Reich posited.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.