What we know about Judge Terry Doughty, who blocked Biden's COVID vaccine mandate and drilling ban
Louisiana U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty, who in the past six months has blocked President Biden's nationwide COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers and lifted Biden's ban on new federal leases for oil and gas drilling, doesn't consider himself political.
"There's no question I'm conservative, but my decisions are never about politics," Doughty told USA Today Network Wednesday, a day after ruling against the vaccine mandate. "I call them like I see them. I just look at the cases and try to follow the law."
Doughty, 62, a Republican nominated by former President Trump in 2017 and confirmed by the Senate in 2018 on a 98-0 vote, began his career as "a country lawyer" in Rayville, a small town of fewer than 4,000 people in northeastern Louisiana.
He still lives outside the town on a row crop farm owned and managed by his wife, commuting daily to his Western District office in Monroe, the commercial hub of the region.
Doughty, a Louisiana Tech University and LSU Law School graduate, served nine years as an elected state district judge before his appointment to the federal bench.
He said his support has been bipartisan throughout his career, noting Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards wrote a letter of support for his nomination to the federal bench when President Obama was in office.
Doughty said his appointment as a federal judge was his "dream job. I love coming to work every day," he said.
Doughty said he follows traditional news outlets like newspapers and TV, but he's not on any social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, which insulates him from both fierce critics and ardent supporters.
"I got off Facebook as soon as I didn't have to run for elective office anymore," he said.
Federal judges have lifetime appointments.
Vaccine ruling: Protecting 'liberty interests of the unvaccinated'
On Wednesday Doughty issued a nationwide injunction on a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers at providers who accept Medicare and Medicaid.
Doughty ruled on the lawsuit led by Republican Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and joined by 13 other states, but Doughty added a nationwide injunction in his ruling.
In his decision, Doughty wrote the Biden Administration doesn't have the authority to bypass Congress in issuing such a mandate.
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"If the executive branch is allowed to usurp the power of the legislative branch to make laws, two of the three powers conferred by our Constitution would be in the same hands," he wrote. "If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency.
The emergency regulation issued Nov. 4 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would have required staff at providers that participate in the programs to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 6 and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.
It would have covered more than 17 million health care workers, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Drilling ban: No 'rational explanation'
Last summer Doughty lifted the Biden administration’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal land and waters.
That paved the way for a $192 million lease sale in November for drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico, the first auction since Biden issued his ban in January to combat climate change.
Doughty’s ruling came in a lawsuit filed in March also filed by Landry and officials in 12 other states, but it applies nationwide.
“The omission of any rational explanation in cancelling the lease sales, and in enacting the Pause, results in this Court ruling that Plaintiff States also have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of this claim,” he wrote.
The Biden administration has appealed the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.