A federal judge ruled Tuesday that nine plaintiffs suing Governor Janet Mills over Maine’s COVID-19 vaccine for health care workers cannot do so anonymously.
U.S. District Court Chief John D. Levy’s 13-page ruling requires the anonymous plaintiffs to file an amended complaint — containing their names — by June 7. The ruling came in response to a suggestion made by the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Morning. The Guardian and Sun Journal.
In his decision, Levy wrote: “After carefully assessing the relevant factors, I have concluded that the plaintiffs have not fulfilled their great burden of demonstrating the need to overcome the strong presumption favoring public access to civil proceedings, as they are required to continue under a pseudonym.”
The newspapers, referred to in court documents as overlapping, argued that plaintiffs should not continue to be allowed to proceed under a pseudonym because “the plaintiff’s alleged fear of harm no longer outweighs the public’s interest in open legal proceedings.”
The plaintiffs are Maine health care workers who in August 2021 challenged a change in a state law requiring employees of designated health care facilities in Maine to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Court documents say the plaintiffs’ reason for rejecting the vaccine is “rooted in their religious objection to abortion and their emphasis on the use of embryonic stem cells in the development of COVID-19 vaccines.”
Levy explained that at the start of the lawsuit, health care workers were allowed to proceed anonymously after arguing that their reasonable fear of harm outweighed the public’s interest in open litigation. Levy said he retains the authority to reconsider.
In Tuesday’s decision, Levy stated that “the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs and resulting medical decisions not to vaccinate against COVID-19, whether considered separately or together, do not advance significant privacy interests in support of pseudonymous actions.”
In the final analysis, Levy wrote, “there is an almost complete absence of evidence that their expressed concerns are objectively reasonable.” “In this record, the privacy interests of the plaintiffs have not been shown to outweigh the public interest associated with the presumption of openness that applies to civil proceedings.”
freedom advisor, The conservative group representing the plaintiffs, argued that Maine needs to provide a religious exemption for vaccines because they offer a medical exemption. The law treats people seeking religious exemption less favorably, Liberty Counsel asserts, thus violating their right to practice their religion freely.
It was not clear if prosecutors intended to appeal Levy’s ruling.
“Because your paper is a party to the dispute and is represented by the Board, Liberty Counsel can only address the newspaper’s attorney on this matter,” Liberty Counsel spokeswoman Holly Mead said in an email response to a request for an interview late Tuesday night. .
Federal judges at all levels US District CourtAnd the First US Court of Appeals in Boston And the Then the US Supreme Court – Refusal to prevent authorization while the courts considered the case. Liberty Counsel, a conservative group representing plaintiffs, petitioned for a transfer order, requesting a full briefing and oral argument to the Supreme Court. The Petition denied in February.
The mandate went into effect in October, and major health care providers at the time reported that most workers decided to get an injection and keep their jobs. The issue is different from the legal battle over the federal vaccine mandate for employees in private companies.
Maine has not allowed workers in hospitals and nursing homes to give up the shots for religious reasons, and the nine prosecutors who Levy says now must identify themselves and have demanded that option.