YLS Solomon Center Holds Workshops on COVID and Constitutional Law

As the global pandemic has forced many experts to reconsider the effectiveness of national health programs, a Yale Law School panel pointed out on Wednesday that COVID-19 has also reshaped politics more broadly – ​​of reproductive rights to armed violence.

The conference was the latest installation in a series of events hosted by Yale Law School’s Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy that will analyze the intersection of the coronavirus and various industries. Wednesday’s event, hosted on Zoom, drew 170 attendees to listen to leading jurists from the nation’s top law schools weigh in on legal rights amid the pandemic. The Center has held similar series over the past four years, but the emergence of the pandemic convinced Solomon Center faculty directors Ian Ayres LAW ’86 and Abbe Gluck ’00 that this year’s 14 workshops should focus on the coronavirus.

“Almost all public policy intersects with the law in some way, but COVID, in particular, has had a huge impact on legal systems and reveals a lot about our legal systems,” Gluck said. “The intersection of COVID and the law is impossible to miss and it’s necessary that a law school like Yale that is at the forefront of all things engages with it in a truly diverse way.”

In recent years, the Center has focused on a range of public issues, including the opioid crisis and gun violence. The diversity of expertise and viewpoints was evident in Wednesday’s list of speakers, which included Professors Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia, Melissa Murray of New York University School of Law, Joseph Blocher of the Duke Law School and Stephen Vladeck of the University of Texas at Austin School. of the law. They applied their expertise to speak on gun violence, reproductive rights, religion, and executive power, respectively. They specifically explored how current court cases involving temporary COVID-19 restrictions will set important legal precedents.

According to Blocher, one legal right that has been challenged is the Second Amendment or the “right to bear arms,” ​​particularly as it relates to domestic violence, racial groups that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID- 19 and gun violence.

“There has been a sharp increase in arms sales in recent months – an increase of around 80% between March and May this year compared to last year,” he said. “There also appear to be spikes in gun violence, accidental shootings of children and deaths by suicide.”

Blocher said these statistics piqued his interest in how laws could change these trends.

Another important issue discussed Wednesday is how the federal government handles constitutional challenges to executive orders. Vladeck said he focused on the level of scrutiny the courts have applied in such cases.

“I have studied the role of courts during crises since I was a student at YLS, and COVID has provided a powerful lens through which to assess/reconsider what we consider to be the appropriate judicial role in emergencies,” said he wrote in an email to the News.

Many attendees were Yale Law School students, especially those enrolled in Gluck and Ayres’ seminar, “COVID: Law, Economics, and Governance.”

Shea Jendrusina LAW ’22 attended the workshop to hear professors from other law schools talk about the legal response to the pandemic.

“I think today’s seminar helpfully highlighted how the courts have thought about the deference they should give to executives and state legislatures during the pandemic,” she said.

In addition to Yale Law School students, undergraduate students also attended the workshop. Emily Lin ’21 said she attended the event because of her interest in law.

Still, she noted that she didn’t know much about the field’s intersection with COVID-19.

“I’m interested in law more broadly, but I think the event highlighted the intersection between COVID and issues of race, political rights and law,” she said.

In interviews with the News, workshop leaders and attendees said that as the pandemic continues, more and more seminars are exploring the impacts of the coronavirus on other areas.

When asked what she hoped attendees would take away from the workshop, Gluck said she hoped the event was a call to action.

“We aim to learn how COVID has revealed gaps, weaknesses and issues in areas of existing laws that demand resolution and give us something to learn,” she said. “We see some interesting questions about these issues that have always been there but that COVID is bringing to the fore. The aim is to see where the turning points lie in these controversial and divisive areas of law.

Gluck encouraged participants from all walks of life to attend these workshops, not least because of their diverse viewpoints.

Gluck said the expertise brought by these workshops filled her with joy.

“I love being able to really engage and learn from these cutting edge and emerging issues and being able to bring such a wide range of experts to Yale,” she said. “To hear their perspective and learn, we deliberately cast a very wide net to bring in as many types of perspectives and topics as possible. It just shows the scope of the pandemic and how many areas of our lives it has affected. . »

The next event in the series, “COVID and Ethics, Medical Rationing and Disability,” will take place on Wednesday, September 16.

Sanchita Kedia | [email protected]

Razel Suasnsing | [email protected]

Clarification, September 25: This article has been updated to clarify Gluck’s comments.


Razel Suansing is a reporter and producer for the offices of City, YTV and Magazine. She covers the cops and the courts, specifically the state’s criminal justice reform efforts, the New Haven Police Department, and the Yale Police Department. Originally from Manila, Philippines, she is a freshman at Davenport College, majoring in global affairs.