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Corrections Officer Can't Get Vaccine Mandate Blocked

By Alexis Shanes · March 5, 2021, 6:03 PM EST

A New Mexico federal judge refused to freeze a local mandate requiring first responders to get a COVID-19 vaccine, dealing a blow to a corrections officer who claimed the vaccine requirement violated his right to due process and bodily integrity.

U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez on Thursday declined Isaac Legaretta's restraining order request against four Dona Ana County officials but agreed to an expedited briefing schedule for the emergency relief.

"The court finds that the facts alleged by plaintiff do not clearly show that immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result to plaintiff before defendants can be heard in opposition," Judge Vazquez said. "The court thus finds no grounds to issue an order without providing defendants with an opportunity to respond."

Legaretta, an employee at the Dona Ana County Detention Center, sought the restraining order and a preliminary injunction preventing the county from enforcing the vaccine mandate and disciplining or firing him if he failed to comply.

However, he hasn't been fired for refusing the vaccine, and a write-up he received for failing to comply didn't count as a form of discipline, the court found.

Legaretta sued Feb. 28, saying a county vaccine mandate for first responders, including corrections officers, was preempted by a federal law for emergency-use authorization for medical products.

The county ran afoul of the federal law, Legaretta said, by not advising him of the benefits and risks of the vaccine and failing to give him the option to refuse it.

The mandate was issued Feb. 1, and Legaretta was written up for noncompliance Feb. 18. The write-up included a five-day notice to comply, and Legaretta said he was threatened with termination.

"That the vaccine being forced upon plaintiff is 'unapproved' cannot be disputed," he said in the complaint. "The abbreviated timelines for the emergency use applications and authorizations means there is much the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] does not know about these products even as it authorizes them for emergency use."

An attorney for Legaretta and a spokesperson for the county did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment.

Legaretta is represented by N. Ana Garner of Garner Law Firm LLC and by Jonathan Diener.

Counsel information for the county officials wasn't immediately available Friday.

The case is Legaretta et al. v. Macias et al., case number 21-cv-00179, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.

--Editing by Haylee Pearl.

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