Attorney General Knudsen asks federal court to toss meritless lawsuit against Montana’s vaccine passport ban

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Attorney General Knudsen asks federal court to toss meritless lawsuit against Montana’s vaccine passport ban

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen asked federal courts to toss the meritless lawsuit attempting to overturn legal protections for Montanans from discrimination based on their vaccination status. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit argues they need and desire to discriminate against fellow Montanans, but they fail to meet the requirements to even bring the lawsuit or state any legally valid claims.

While other states considered implementing “vaccine passports,” the State of Montana acted via House Bill 702 to protect its citizens from vaccination-based discrimination and the involuntary disclosure of their private health care information as a condition of everyday life. The Montana Medical Association and other plaintiffs, however, claim this new law discriminates against them because it prohibits them from discriminating against others.

“Plaintiffs’ open wish to discriminate evinces a troubling desire by parts of Montana’s medical community to violate the fundamental rights of Montanans,” the State’s motion to dismiss, which was filed last Thursday, reads. “The State of Montana put forward a clear policy that Montanans cannot be denied their fundamental right to pursue employment based on vaccination status.” 

The plaintiffs all lack standing, each for their own unique reasons.

The Montana Medical Association’s purely hypothetical injury to unnamed and unknown members does not meet the rules of associational standing or established precedent that all organization members be affected, especially because some of the medical workers they seek to terminate are presumably the organization’s own members.

The Five Valleys Urology and Western Montana Clinic argue the anti-discrimination law prevents them from practicing medicine in a safe manner. However, the law has been in effect for more than five months and unless they “are telling the Court that they are currently providing subpar healthcare services their claims cannot be valid.”

The individual plaintiffs also fail to plead a harm that is directly tied to the law, because “vaccinated and unvaccinated alike may carry and transmit infectious diseases such as COVID-19” and the law “does not affect who is a ‘likely carrier’ of disease.”

Further, the medical facility plaintiffs would shoot themselves in the foot and cause the problem they are claiming to try to prevent if they were to discriminate against unvaccinated employees. Plaintiff Providence Health Services, for example, has already requested assistance from the Montana National Guard to alleviate its staff shortage.

“Without sufficient staffing, medical facilities risk reducing their standard of care to patients. Self-inflicted staff shortages pose a real and substantial risk to medical facilities’ ability to provide effective and ethical medical care to their patients,” the motion to dismiss states.

While the plaintiffs’ lack of standing alone should be enough for the Court to toss the case, their complaints regarding federal laws and the Montana and United States constitutions are unfounded and not supported by law.

Their reading of the “clean and health” provisions of the Montana Constitution, for example, “would dictate that the State exercise its power to regulate public health and safety in the way they demand. This undercuts more than a century of federal precedent and undermines the flexibility afforded to legislators to balance individual rights against public health needs.” These constitutional provisions apply only to the natural environment. Interpreting them to support pro-discrimination claims would clearly go against the original intent.

“Plaintiffs’ Complaint is a morass of factually unsupported conclusory statements that requires the Court to delve deep into inference, conjecture, and hypotheticals and woefully short of what Rule 8 requires. For the reasons set forth above, this Court should grant the State’s motion to dismiss,” the State concludes.

Click here to read Montana’s full motion to dismiss.

In addition to fighting to uphold protections for Montanans, Attorney General Knudsen has been a leader in protecting Americans against vaccine mandates. Immediately following President Biden’s September 9 speech, Attorney General Knudsen announced he would file a lawsuit when the federal rule was issued. Additionally, he and 23 other state attorneys general warned Biden that this “disastrous and counterproductive” mandate would only drive more Americans from the job market, further burdening the health care system and the economy.

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