Corrections officers seek restraining order on NJ booster mandate
TRENTON – Lawyers for the correctional police officers’ union are seeking a restraining order from a state appeals court to block Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order requiring them to get COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses.
The New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, on behalf of 28 local unions, asked the appellate division for permission to apply for a restraining order enjoining the new mandate, which applies to state and county correctional officers. It eliminates a testing opt-out that had been available under an August 2021 executive order.
The court filing notes that COVID infection rates are declining significantly, with the 7-day average of new infections down 69% from their peak two weeks ago. The number of lab-reported PCR and antigen positives has gone from 31,839 a day to 9,851, the lowest level since Dec 23.
Pat Colligan, the PBA state president, said every state prison and county jails had “extremely vigilant” testing policies in place before the order that tested unvaccinated officers – and in some cases, vaccinated ones – once or twice a week for the virus.
“My members have told me that the testing policies were working well in keeping the prisons and jails as safe as possible,” Colligan said. “This mandate is extreme and unnecessary in light of the testing polices that were in place and working.”
William Sullivan, president of PBA Local 105, which includes over 5,000 state correctional officers, said the testing found nearly equal numbers of positive cases among vaccinated and unvaccinated officers. He didn’t indicate what share of officers are unvaccinated.
“Gov. Murphy stated in his press conference that EO #283 was enacted to stop the transmission of Omicron,” Sullivan said. “However, I believe everyone agrees that the science and statistics have demonstrated that the vaccines have been ineffective in stopping the transmission of this variant.”
Under Murphy’s order, unvaccinated officers – as well as nurses and nursing-home staff – are required to get first vaccine doses by Feb. 16 and be up-to-date, including a booster, by March 30. Those who are not can lose their jobs.
Murphy's office said it had no comment on the legal filing.
The appeal is being handled by the law firm of Crivelli, Barbati and DeRose, which in its court filing called the vaccine “an invasive medical procedure that does not effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
“No matter if you believe in the efficacy of this vaccination or not, no one can contradict the fact that the issuance of this executive order strikes against individual freedom,” said attorney Frank Crivelli. “And if it is upheld by the court, it begs the question of whether or not this governmental intrusion and control of one’s personal liberty has an end point.”
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.