In the face of the U.S. Supreme Court recently postponing two upcoming weeks of oral arguments because of the coronavirus outbreak, Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, devoted a recent column in The Conversation to the legal impacts of the pandemic.
“As someone who has studied law and catastrophe, I think that the court should be focused less on the precedent set when courts need to adapt to conditions such as the coronavirus crisis – and more on their readiness and capacity to continue to discharge their obligations under the Constitution,” he wrote. “Stopping their work has repercussions for citizens and government officials needing resolution of disputes and authoritative interpretations of the law.”
He cited videoconferencing and other technological tools to limit face-to-face interactions as ways to keep courts in session while limiting the spread of disease.
“Because of their reverence for tradition, courts are not known as particularly nimble and adaptive institutions. But their existing preparations will help. However, some lawyers and scholars worry that in a time of catastrophe due process of law will fall by the wayside in the name of expediency,” Sarat wrote.