WMU appeals federal judge’s decision on vaccine mandate

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Almost three weeks after a federal judge extended a temporary restraining order against Western Michigan University over its COVID vaccine requirement, WMU administrators are appealing that decision.

In a filing on Monday, legal counsel representing WMU administrators responded to U.S. District Court Judge Paul Maloney’s decision by motioning for a stay of proceedings and stay of injunction in a federal appeals court.

Levine & Levine attorney Sarissa Montaque explained what that entails.

“If you ask for a stay, the stay then means, ‘OK, hold off for a minute. Don’t let them start doing it right now. Let’s let these proceedings go on. Let’s let further proceedings take place. But in the interim, allow things to stay how they are,'” Montaque said.

Both motions for the stay were denied in district court, but Western Michigan’s lawyers are planning to appeal in federal circuit court.

According to court documents, they argue the current ruling is “incompatible with Free Exercise jurisprudence” because it is requiring them “to extend privileged treatment to the plaintiffs that is not available to any other student athlete and give them license to expose their teammates to a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

Maloney’s decision to extend the temporary restraining order against WMU allowed 16 Bronco athletes to play and practice while being religiously exempt from the university’s coronavirus vaccine mandate.

Montaque explained the likelihood of a civil case being appealable depends on the timeliness and gravity of the issues. In this case, medical needs and freedom of religion are the relevant factors.

“There needs to be a legal basis, a legal ground upon which they’re finding that the ruling was incorrect,” Montaque said. “This is why we have a court system for an impartial person to be able to look at these issues and decide from a constitutional perspective what the school can do and what they can’t.”

These developments only apply to the injunction and temporary restraining order since the entire civil case is still pending in district court. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit — the athletes — have until Wednesday to respond to the appeal.

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