Judge rejects lawsuit from Denver police officers challenging city’s vaccine mandate

The current health order doesn’t specify what happens to unvaccinated employees if they ignore the Thursday deadline.
2 min. read
A DPD cruiser parked in the Far East Center on Federal Boulevard, June 25, 2021.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

A U.S. District Court dismissed a lawsuit Wednesday from seven Denver police officers that alleged the city's vaccine mandate is unlawful.

Assistant city attorney Joshua Roberts opened the proceedings by immediately filing a motion that the court dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the plaintiffs did not exhaust all administrative solutions before turning to a lawsuit.

Randy Corporon, a conservative radio host and attorney who represented the seven police officers, argued those attempts would have been futile. He also said the public health order didn't give his clients enough time to pursue these avenues. All city employees are required to provide proof of vaccination by Thursday.

Roberts rebutted by noting the order was issued on August 2, giving plaintiffs about two months to seek a solution.

"They have chosen not to do so instead of filing this 11th hour appeal and asking the court to review it now as a matter of urgency because they are required to comply with the order within the next couple of days," Roberts said.

Judge Shelley Gilman granted Roberts' motion to dismiss the lawsuit, agreeing that the court lacked jurisdiction, citing several cases that set precedence.

"The court will further find any allegations regarding timing were brought up by plaintiffs themselves. The order placed on August 2nd, while there were some minor changes to that on September 2nd, there was certainly time to get it heard even sooner, than it was heard by this court in the 2nd Judicial District," Gilman said in her conclusion.

It's unclear what will happen to the officers if they still refuse to get the vaccine. While Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has said people's employment may be terminated once the vaccine deadline passes, the current health order mandating employee vaccination does not specify what happens to unvaccinated employees.

Denver's police officers and firefighters had the highest rate of vaccine exemptions approved within city ranks. As of early September, 799 city employees requested exemption from the mandate.

Corporon told The Denver Post after the case was dismissed that he plans to pursue an administrative complaint with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, which he expects to file Thursday. If that effort fails, the officers can file another lawsuit over that decision.

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