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The Rule of Law and Why Judges Matter During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Rule of Law and Why Judges Matter During the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 20, 2020

This message is not our typical advice about emerging labor and employment law issues.  Instead I write to remind you of the challenges that our courts are facing and for those interested in looking at the legal issues, some of which impact our non-work lives.  Below I am including a link to a program aired this week by the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada, where I have the honor to chair the Board of Trustees.  The Judicial College is the world’s leading institution in educating judges.  We educate more than ten thousand judges each year both on campus, at locations around the world and online.  Having well educated judges is essential to maintaining the Rule of Law because solid judicial education leads to better decision making.  Our work is completely non-partisan and we receive financial support from across the political/philosophical spectrum, and importantly, from both ends of it as well.

The Judicial College has been forced to take all of its programming online for the foreseeable future.  The result has been unprecedented demand for its programming, especially that related to the pandemic as judges need to understand the issues that will come before them as this crisis plays out and then as we recover.

This week, the Judicial College hosted a program that included Dean Erwin Chemerinsky from the U. Cal. Berkeley School of Law and a noted constitutional scholar.  You may also recognize his name as he is often a pundit on the news.  His co-panelists included Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Draper and Hawaii Associate Supreme Court Justice McKenna.  Amongst the issues presented and debated were:

  • Can states mandate COVID-19 testing or a 14-day quarantine upon entry?
  • Can the government force you to get a vaccine or disclose that you have COVID-19 antibodies in your blood?
  • Is it a violation of the 8th Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment if a state or the federal government fails to protect inmates in a jail or prison with a known outbreak of COVID-19?
  • Is it constitutional for the government to obtain cell phone data to track the movements and contacts of people with confirmed COVID-19 cases without their consent?  And, could the same kind of data be used to cite people for violating stay-at-home or curfew orders?

These cutting edge issues will inevitably wind up before our nation’s courts and I am proud that we have taken the lead in doing our small part to make sure that our courts are prepared to do justice.  The recorded program is available for anyone who wishes to learn about these issues by clicking here.  The content is suitable not just for judges but also for lawyers and non-lawyers.  It will be a welcome break from the 24-hour news cycle that absorbs a great deal of our attention lately.

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