COVID-19 and the Law Colloquium Series | Governmental Powers

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For years, public health experts have been warning of a global pandemic so contagious that it would lead to massive devastation. Few nations across the globe heeded these warnings and every community now has to address both the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of policies shutting down most economic, social, and community activities. Law is both a tool to address these consequences and a domain experiencing serious effects, as law offices and courts shut down or moved to remote services.

This colloquium series brings members of the Harvard Law School community together to explore and assess the legal responses to COVID-19 across areas of law ranging from laws governing health and health care, including drug development, public health, contact tracing and privacy; regulation of labor, safety, finance and debt, immigration; protection of basic human needs such as housing and food; and the scope and limitations of governmental powers operating in a pandemic.

More than 40 faculty members will share their insights and questions about the changes that are possible as localities, states, the U.S., and other nations continue to mobilize responses. With a particular focus on U.S. law and an emphasis on the urgent needs of marginalized populations, low-income and unemployed Americans, and people of color, the series will cover themes including individual rights vs. public safety, governance, polarization and disinformation, and inequalities.

In the series’ first session, “Governmental Powers,” panelists addressed the subject of who decides the fundamental questions around public health during a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic: What level of government, how governments interact, and what restraints are there on governments.

The panel was moderated by Martha Minow, 300th Anniversary University Professor and co-host (with Emily Broad Leib) of the COVID-19 and the Law colloquium series.

Panelists included:
– Urs Gasser, professor of practice and executive director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society;
– Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law; vice dean for Library and Information Resources; faculty director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society; professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; and professor at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government;
– Noah Feldman, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law and director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law;
– Niko Bowie, assistant professor of law; and
– Vicki Jackson, Laurence H. Tribe Professor of Constitutional Law.

All sessions will be recorded and videos will be available afterwards for broader public viewing here and on the series website. Registration for live viewing of the sessions is open to the Harvard Community only.

For more information on the COVID-19 and the Law Colloquium Series, visit https://covidseries.law.harvard.edu/

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