Cadets drop lawsuit after federal judge rules in favor of USMMA’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Six US Merchant Marine Academy cadets who challenged the King Point school’s vaccination mandate have officially dropped their legal challenge, two weeks after a federal judge refused to block the policy.

The lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed by lawyers for the six cadets on Monday, according to documents filed in the Eastern District of the United States.

The move comes after Eastern United States District Court Judge Joan Azrack refused to block USMMA’s COVID-19 warrant, arguing the college’s policy is of “critical national interest “and a guarantee for public health.

The 14-page decision denied a cadets’ request for a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order preventing USMMA from executing the warrant.

In October, the school announced that all plebeians in first grades and aspiring second to fourth graders must be fully immunized by December 28 – the same deadline the Department of Defense set for other members of the service. – or be unsubscribed from the academy.

In November, the cadets filed a lawsuit, naming the United States Maritime Administration and Department of Transportation, which oversee the nation’s maritime academies.

“The Academy and DOD mandates are a sound political decision taken to protect the health and safety of the US military – a vital national interest,” Azrack wrote. “It just doesn’t shock the awareness that the Department of Defense and Academy would impose COVID-19 vaccinations, with some exemptions, to do so.”

Staten Island attorneys Mark Fonte and Louis Gelormino, who represent the cadets, did not respond to requests for comment.

Lawyers argued that vaccination was never a requirement for attending the academy and that the warrant makes no exceptions for weekly testing, or for those who have developed antibodies from previous exposure to COVID. -19. Midshipmen could also risk incurring opt-out penalties, the lawsuit said, including reimbursing USMMA’s $ 260,000, the value of four-year tuition.

“It is simply illegal and unfair to change the enrollment requirements in the middle of their term at school,” the lawyers said in November. “Many of these cadets would have chosen different career paths if this requirement had been in place when they joined the academy. “

Azrack wrote that while the court does not have jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claims, the case would fail on the merits because the warrant is in the public interest and does not prevent unvaccinated cadets from pursuing careers in the private sector in maritime transport.

“There is a significant public interest in protecting the health and safety of the plebs and aspirants of the Academy,” Azrack wrote. In addition, the public interest in the military readiness and effective administration of the federal government outweighs the speculative claims of the plaintiffs regarding job-related pecuniary losses and losses regarding the potential reimbursement of tuition fees. . “

Last month, James Knapp, Long Island Civil Division chief for the Eastern District, wrote that the lawsuit should be dismissed because unvaccinated students still have the option of seeking medical or religious exemptions.

“It is only a student who refuses to make the choice that may face a discipline that can go as far as unsubscribing,” Knapp wrote.

USMMA, which trains men and women to become midshipmen on ocean-going vessels and in the military, has yet to release final procedures on how to handle requests for medical or religious exemptions. and said she will suspend student opt-outs until such guidelines are released.

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