Even though Los Angeles Unified dropped its Covid vaccine mandate for school staff almost a year ago, a lawsuit accusing the district of violating workers’ rights can still move forward, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday.

The 2-1 ruling by a pair of federal judges appointed by former President Donald Trump revives a case that a lower court had dismissed. It also counters recent rulings by courts — including the 9th Circuit — that tossed lawsuits challenging expired Covid-19 rules on the grounds that the policies were no longer in effect.

The judges in the majority wrote this case was different because they found L.A. Unified demonstrated a pattern of “withdrawing and reinstating its vaccination policies” over the course of the lawsuit.

“Accordingly, LAUSD has not carried its heavy burden to show that there is no reasonable possibility that it will again revert to imposing a similar policy,” the opinion states wrote.

They also indicated they were open to arguments over the effectiveness of the vaccine, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes as a safe way to build immunity against Covid-19.

“At this stage, we must accept Plaintiffs’ allegations that the vaccine does not prevent the spread of Covid-19 as true,” Judge Ryan Nelson wrote. The opinion characterizes that aspect of the ruling as preliminary, and something that would be argued at a lower court.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Daniel Collins invoked Supreme Court precedent that “compulsory treatment for the health benefit of the person treated — as opposed to compulsory treatment for the health benefit of others — implicates the fundamental right to refuse medical treatment.”

The plaintiffs alleged that the vaccines do not prevent someone from becoming infected with COVID-19 and characterized it as a treatment rather than a “traditional vaccine.”

They argued that by requiring employees to get the Covid shot, the school district was interfering with workers’ right to refuse medical treatment.

“No one with any credibility would tell you that the vaccine prevented Covid or stopped the spread,” said John Howard, a San Diego attorney who argued the case on behalf of a handful of Los Angeles Unified employees and an Idaho-based group called the Health Freedom Defense Fund that’s filed several other Covid vaccine lawsuits.

“But when the hysteria was going on, that’s exactly what pharmaceutical companies and others said,” Howard said. “It was false….”

From Cal Matters