DFEMS, Mendiola oppose reinstating nine firefighters

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The Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services and its head, Commissioner Dennis Mendiola, claim that the nine firefighters who were terminated for refusing to get vaccinated are not entitled to a preliminary injunction that would reinstate them as firefighters while their lawsuit is ongoing.

The department, through assistant attorney general Abbi Novotny, said in their filed opposition that the plaintiffs are not entitled to a preliminary injunction because they have shown neither a violation of their constitutional rights nor that they will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an injunction.

According to Novotny, the court should deny the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction because they have not adequately established each of the elements they must plead to show that they are entitled to a preliminary injunction.

She explained that injunctive relief requires certain factors that must be examined when a trial court determines whether to grant a preliminary injunction.

The factors include whether the plaintiffs have a strong likelihood of success on the merits, the level of the threat of irreparable harm to the plaintiff if the relief is not granted, the balance between the harm the plaintiff will face if the injunction is denied and the harm the defendant will face if the injunction is granted, and any effect the injunction may have on the public interest.

However, Novotny claims that the plaintiffs’ equal protection claims are unlikely to succeed because they have not shown that they are members of a suspect class nor that a fundamental right has been burdened.

In addition, the firefighters’ due process claim fails because they do not have a legitimate claim to continued employment under the Civil Services Personnel Regulations.

Lastly, the government claims that the plaintiffs’ allegations fail to show irreparable harm, balance of harm in their favor, or that the public interest weighs in their favor.

“There is no debate that the defendants have the responsibility to continue to keep members of the public safe from COVID-19 by not exposing them to unvaccinated firefighters that are legally obligated to respond to any emergency. Because plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed on the merits of their case and the defendant has the responsibility to protect the public, there can be no argument that the balance of harms caused by a preliminary injunction weighs in favor of defendant,” she said.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, Joseph Horey, lawyer to the nine firefighters, claims that his clients have a strong likelihood of success on the merits, particularly on the issues of individual privacy and procedural due process because the law speaks clearly and emphatically in their favor.

Horey said his clients are suffering irreparable harm in the denial of their constitutional rights, and it is in the public interest that these rights not be infringed.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.

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