Federal judge dismisses vaccine lawsuits filed against Charleston municipalities
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Court documents state a federal judge has dismissed four lawsuits filed over vaccine mandates.
The suits named the cities of Charleston and North Charleston, Charleston County, and the St. Johns Fire District.
U.S. District Judge David Norton signed the order dismissing the four suits Tuesday, according to court documents.
The lawsuits were filed after the cities, the county and the fire district all imposed vaccine mandates for their employees.
Forty-four Charleston employees filed a lawsuit against Mayor John Tecklenburg and the city of Charleston in September over the Holy City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The suit alleged the city’s vaccine mandate is unenforceable because it “conflicts with the South Carolina Constitution’s guarantee of free expression, violates the South Carolina’s Home Rule Act, violates DHEC’s General Supervision of Vaccination, Screening, and Immunization, would result in a common law wrongful discharge of the Plaintiffs, violates Substantive Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, free exercise, and due process, and deprives plaintiffs of their fundamental right to refuse medical treatment.”
Court documents argued the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has the authority to declare regulations concerning vaccine and immunization requirements but that municipalities do not.
The Charleston mandate required all employees to be fully vaccinated or have submitted a request for an exemption by Nov. 22.
A group of North Charleston employees that included several veteran first responders filed a suit against the city over its vaccine mandate issued by mayor Keith Summey on Sept. 1. The suit said the order tried to impose a mandatory vaccine requirement on all city employees, volunteers, and interns, whether working on a full or part-time schedule and alleged the mandate violates the employees’ rights and responsibilities to make medical decisions for themselves under the Constitution of the State of South Carolina, South Carolina common law, and the Constitution of the United States.
Twenty-five Charleston County employees and vendors, including 14 deputies, filed a lawsuit against Charleston County over a county mandate requiring vaccination against COVID-19 by Nov. 7. The county employees claimed the county’s mandate conflicted with the South Carolina Constitution’s guarantee of free expression, violated the South Carolina’s Home Rule Act, violated DHEC’s General Supervision of Vaccination, Screening, and Immunization, would result in a common law wrongful discharge of the plaintiffs’ violated Substantive Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, conflicted with the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, free exercise, and due process, and deprived plaintiffs of their fundamental right to refuse medical treatment.”
The suit involving the St. Johns Fire District, also filed in September, focused on the district’s vaccine mandate, which required all employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 20.
Norton wrote that after initial requests for injunctions against the mandates were denied, the municipalities motioned for dismissals of the suits. The plaintiffs then moved to voluntarily withdraw their complaints “without prejudice,” meaning they could have potentially refiled the suits at a later date.
But Norton found the request for dismissal without prejudice was not appropriate because the reasons for their requests, “to the extent that they offer any -- are wholly insufficient,” court documents state.
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