On December 5, 2020, with a fifteen-percent turnout, in a nearly 50/50 split, 41 voters propelled Frederick into the judiciary. Today, eighty-five percent (85%) of Vermilion Parish residents may well find themselves regretting their decision to stay home on that fateful day. Just ten months later, Tommy Frederick cast healthcare workers into the outer darkness.
His ruling was, because the hospital is not “a state actor,” the Louisiana’s constitutional protections for their employees simply don’t matter. That his ruling effectively ordered these employees to undergo medical experimentation is a very slippery slope. Perhaps the future will reveal a medical worker who doesn’t need that kidney quite as much as someone else. Give in, or you’re fired?
In fact, the only attorney who spoke on behalf of Ochsner Lafayette General guaranteed, “if they’re not vaccinated by October 29th, they’re fired!” That attorney was James “Jim” Gibson, of Gibson Law Partners. His name was a surprise to me, because his firm isn’t the one that responded to the health care workers’ demand letter. That firm was Breazeale, Sachse, & Wilson, out of Baton Rouge but with a presence in New Orleans and Monroe. They have no offices in Lafayette, which may be why they brought in Gibson, who self-identifies as being a “high stakes litigation” specialist.
Meet the defense attorney
Gibson had long, shaggy hair, wore a loud, custom blue-gray plaid suit with peak lapels and matching waistcoat. He accented with a solid electric blue tie and matching pocket square, black lizard shoes, a very flashy gold watch on one wrist, and a gaudy gold chain on the other. His appearance and boisterous demeanor fit the picture most people have of flashy, fast-talking, big-business lawyers.
Not only did he guarantee that healthcare workers would be fired, he cited cases from all over the nation (except Louisiana) where big pharma and huge hospital systems had fashioned their human resource departments into blunt instruments with which to bludgeon their employees: threatening, and in some cases even firing anyone who dared to refuse medical experimentation on their own bodies.
Tommy Frederick’s ruling said the hospital may make medical experimentation a condition of employment because it is “not a state actor.” However, to make such an erroneous assessment he must have stopped his ears to Gibson’s ramblings. At one point, Gibson said that if the hospital did not fire the employees for not willingly giving up their constitutionally protected right to bodily autonomy, the government “won’t give us money to stay in business.” If acting on behalf of government money is not considered being “a state actor,” then nothing is. Add to this, if they openly admit they can’t operate without government (read: taxpayer) money, then perhaps they aren’t really a private business at all. Maybe they’re really just an extension of the bureaucracy.
Also lost on Gibson and his client, apparently, was the idea that government derives its power from the consent of the governed. That means the government’s first responsibility is protecting the rights of individuals from large groups (like big business) who would do them harm.
Meet the healthcare workers’ attorney
There are several attorneys on both teams, but only one spoke for each. On the plaintiff side was Jimmy Faircloth of Faircloth Melton Sobel and Bash. He had a close cropped haircut, wore a conservative charcoal suit with a red tie that had a slight yellow pattern, no pocket square, stainless steel watch, and brown oxfords. He was crisp but very polite and quite to the point.
Faircloth gave many examples, dismantling the hospital’s reasoning on several points. In one, he said if he asked an employee to show him the contents of her purse or she’d be fired – she’d sue and win. However, if someone reported that she had a gun in her purse, it was considered his duty to check. Thus, an exemption for privacy could be made in the case of public safety. It was an odd thing to say, but his point was this case is not about that kind of privacy.
Certainly, privacy is a facet, but his primary argument was article one, section five of the Louisiana Constitution guaranteed the citizens of Louisiana the right to reject medical treatment. In fact, he said, it wasn’t a “shall make no law” kind of right. Rather, it afforded and guaranteed certain rights. He cited many of these in his original demand letter to the hospital.
“It has been well settled for over thirty years that this provision includes the affirmative right to decide whether to obtain or reject medical treatment, as expressly held by Hondroulis v. Schuhmacher.” Another was, “Louisiana’s right to privacy ‘is one of the most conspicuous instances in which our citizens have chosen a higher standard of individual liberty than that afforded by the jurisprudence interpreting the federal constitution.’ State v. Brennan.”
He went on to read other examples, and finally stopped on the point that every person has the right to decide what is injected into their own body.
Tommy Frederick’s ruling
The ruling was short. Effectively, he said that no “irreparable harm” would come to the employees (by being fired). Also, because the hospital is “not a state actor” they don’t have to follow the Louisiana Constitution’s provisions guaranteeing people be in control of their own medical decisions. If nothing else, this ruling should send a shockwave to those 41 citizens in Vermilion Parish who sent Ricky LaFleur home and instead thrust Tommy Frederick into power.
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