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For the Third Time, Paul, Weiss Successfully Defends the Religious Exemption in the N.Y. State Courts’ Vaccination Mandate

Paul, Weiss successfully defended the vaccine mandate of our client the New York State Unified Court System in the third lawsuit by court employees attacking the mandate’s religious exemption on constitutional grounds.

Seven state court employees who were denied religious exemptions to the vaccination requirement brought an Article 78 petition in New York Supreme Court in Steuben County, alleging the requirement was arbitrary and capricious and violated their civil rights. They argued that the vaccination requirement violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and that the religious exemption was unconstitutional, both as written and as applied to them. Following briefing and oral argument, Justice Kevin M. Nasca rejected the petitioners’ application for injunctive relief and granted our motion to dismiss.

In his 23-page decision, the judge found that the plaintiffs were not likely to succeed on the merits, holding that the vaccination requirement enabled the UCS, which includes 13 judicial districts across 62 counties, to “maintain an accessible forum for justice,” and was implemented “as a means of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through UCS courtrooms, protecting the safety of UCS employees and the public.” He also touted the court system’s religious exemption process—on which the Paul, Weiss team consulted and provided guidance—as “narrowly tailored” such that it likely satisfied even strict scrutiny review, should such an exacting standard apply.

The Paul, Weiss team included litigation partners Bruce Birenboim, Liza Velazquez and Gregory Laufer.

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