Can a judge condition probation on vaccination?

An Ohio judge gave a drug defendant 60 days to get vaccinated as a probation condition (read story here).

The man apparently would rather go to jail, or at least his lawyers are waiting to see what the judge does after the 60 days are up, with no vaccination.

So, how about that? Is this a proper thing for a judge to do? His Honor says his job is to “rehabilitate the defendant and protect the community.” Sounds reasonable. He pointed out, as CNN’s worded it, that “it isn’t uncommon for judges to make decisions to protect a defendant’s health, which can include ordering various health treatments.”

Which is true. Judges can involuntarily commit people who pose a danger to themselves. They can order medical treatments against a person’s wishes. Courts have broad discretion in personal welfare matters.

And unquestionably, they can protect communities from harmful behavior. For example, they can revoke a drunk driver’s license and order him/her into alcohol treatment. They can order defendants to take anger management classes. In terms of broad principles, this judge appears to be on solid ground.

But his order applies to only one anti-vaxxer. What about the millions of anti-vaxxers out there? There’s compelling evidence they’re a danger to themselves, although the argument they’re a danger to others is perhaps weakened by recent findings that vaccinated people can transmit the virulent Delta variant, too.

But logic and argument aside, I don’t think our courts want to be in the business of ordering holdouts to get vaccinated, especially when Congress and legislatures, and the president and governors won’t do it. Judges would much rather uphold such orders than issue them. There’s also the problem of enforcing compliance. Judges normally do that by holding people who defy court orders in contempt and throwing them in jail until they comply. But given the stubbornness of anti-vaxxers, even unto hospitalization and death, if you think we have an ICU bed shortage, that’s nothing compared to the shortage of jail cells we’d have.

I don’t our courts will go there. But this dope head may go there. Probably a good place for him.

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0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Mark Adams #

    Can a Judge order all the officers of the court to be vaccinated. All the employees tat work in the court or clerks office. All the members of the press or public who attend a trial or hearing. He has no authority to order any of them to get any vaccination.

    To order any defendant to get any vaccine he has not the power, unless the facts in the case either by law or circumstance provide rational reason for this defendant to receive a vaccination. Most punishments are defined by law, most things a judge may order for probation condition are again by law. If the defendant is going home and a resident there is elderly, in poor health or has an underlying condition perhaps there is a window for such a condition, even with those circumstances I rather doubt the judge has the power to order anyone to get vaccinated as it seems somewhat cruel and unusual.

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    That’s your personal opinion and bias, not a legal analysis.