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”