Judge denies request for SB277 preliminary injunction – vaccines win

SB277 preliminary injunction

On August 26, 2016 Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the federal district court in San Diego rejected the request of a group of plaintiffs to issue a preliminary injunction putting SB277 – the law that removed the personal belief exemption (PBE) to California’s school immunization requirements – on hold. Judge Sabraw’s decision is carefully reasoned, powerful, upholds existing caselaw and protects children. While plaintiffs are likely to appeal, this denial of the SB277 preliminary injunction will be hard to overturn.

The practical meaning of the decision is that SB277 remains in force while the case is being litigated, and unvaccinated children who are starting kindergarten or seventh grade may not attend public or private schools unless they have a medical exemption or, in some cases, an individualized education plan, or IEP.

There are four elements to the question of whether to grant a preliminary injunction: whether the plaintiffs are likely to succeed, whether plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction, whether the balance of equities supports the plaintiffs – the harm to plaintiff is more than the harm, in this case, to the state from giving the injunction, and whether an injunction is in the public interest. The bar is high: a preliminary injunction is an unusual remedy.

The judge focused almost completely on whether the plaintiffs are likely to succeed, and found they are not, which does not bode well for their final case. He did make one comment about their harm.

If there is a place the decision could have been made stronger, it is by going deeper into the other elements. Specifically, discussing the public interest element would have bolstered the decision, since there is a clear public interest in letting a measure designed to prevent disease take effect.

But the decision already has the argument that preventing disease is a compelling state interest, by implication, making this case. Continue reading “Judge denies request for SB277 preliminary injunction – vaccines win”

California SB277 vaccine law preliminary injunction hearing

SB277 vaccine law

Today I attended the hearing for a preliminary injunction in the Whitlow suit, one of the lawsuits against California’s SB277 vaccine law. I arrived early to try and get an impression of the judge, and because I was worried that there would be no room in the court (in the end, everyone who wanted got in). I sat in the court from 11am, and after the courtroom was cleared for lunch break stood in line until it was opened, around 1:15.

Below are my impressions. Since Judge Sabraw ordered that all electronic devices be off during the hearing, and I did not bring a legal pad, I could not take notes, so this is based on my recollections – and I apologize to the lawyers on either side if I misremembered their points. I’ll be happy to be corrected on any details.

In this hearing, the question was whether plaintiffs should get a preliminary injunction, an order putting the SB277 vaccine law on hold until the case is decided.

The standard for a preliminary injunction is a four part standard that looks at:

  1. chances of winning on the merits;
  2. whether there will be irreparable harm to the plaintiffs without the injunction;
  3. how the balance of equities falls – whether the harm to the plaintiffs is larger than the harm to the defendants from granting the injunction;  and
  4. whether an injunction is in the public interest. In the hearing, most of the focus was on the legal merits, though there was some discussion about the potential harm to the plaintiffs.

I admit that my impression was that on almost every issue the state had a better argument, with stronger case law supporting it. However, I am – obviously – a supporter of the SB277 vaccine law, and that may bias my views. It was a long hearing, and I’m no doubt not covering every detail.  Continue reading “California SB277 vaccine law preliminary injunction hearing”