‘We’re just trying to get these 9 firefighters back to work’

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The defense lawyer for the nine firefighters who were sacked for failing to comply with mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirements is hopeful that the court will grant the preliminary injunction reinstating the firefighters, while waiting on the court’s order regarding their lawsuit against the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

In a statement from Jeffrey Horey last Monday during the initial hearing of the suit, he said he and his clients are looking forward to the court’s decision on their motion for a preliminary injunction.

A preliminary injunction is an order prohibiting an action, but in this case reversing an action and reinstating the nine, to preserve the status quo while the court decides on the lawsuit.

“We’re looking forward to the court’s decision. We’re just trying to get these guys back to work. We have no expectations right now because the judge isn’t getting into any of the issues until the next hearing,” he said.

Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph Camacho scheduled the hearing for the preliminary injunction on July 6. He also instructed the government to file its opposition, if any, by June 28 and the defense was given until July 2 to respond.

The nine firefighters—Paul T. Acebedo, Jose K. Angui, Allen T. Calvo, Cain C. Castro, Argernon A. Flores, Derek B. Gersonde, Shawn DLR Kaipat, Philip M. Kalen, and Adam J. Safer—asked the CNMI Superior Court for an order reinstating them to their previous jobs until a decision is reached in their lawsuit.

In the filed motion for a preliminary injunction, Horey said 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.

The plaintiffs, he added, have already proposed numerous ways in which the public health and safety can be protected without requiring their vaccinations, primarily by assigning them to duties within the department where public contact is unnecessary.

Horey added that there is surely some room somewhere in the government for unvaccinated persons to work safely, since the policy itself anticipates making room for those with religious or medical objections to the vaccine. “All [the] plaintiffs ask is that the same room be made available to them,” he said.

Their lawsuit, which was filed two weeks ago, asks the court to issue an order declaring that the terminations of the nine firefighters were invalid and unlawful, and to set the terminations aside.

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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