Law school scholars share expertise during COVID-19 crisis

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, faculty and researchers at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law are sharing expertise in multiple areas, including health law, emergency management, and environmental law to help guide officials and the public through the crisis.  

ProfMichael Greenberger is founding director of the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS), leading a staff of more than 25, most of whom are Maryland Carey Law alumni and members of the law school teaching faculty. CHHS staff consult for governmental and institutional organizations in the fields of emergency management and homeland security, serving more than 80 clients worldwide.  

According to Greenbergerthe center is going full tilt, assisting agencies in Maryland and across the nation during the crisis. “The staff has been working 24/7 advising, among others, the health and emergency management departments of Baltimore City, the City of Annapolis and of Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard, and Anne Arundel counties,” said Greenberger, “as well as hospitals and public school systems throughout Maryland.” 

For example, work for the Baltimore City Health Department includes contributing expertise toward the development of policy related to the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare entities within the city. 

Additionally, the center’s experts on legal issues pertaining to state and federal laws to combat a pandemic have created emergency declaration legal handbooks for state and county public health officials, courts, and legal officers, outlining statutory and case law explaining the extraordinary powers of governors to respond to a pandemic, as well as citizens rights, and judicial proceduresThose powers include quarantine, isolation, lockdowns, business closures, evacuations, emergency alteration of medical standards of care and medical licensing, forced medical treatments, forced provision of medical services, controlling incoming traffic into states, and the relationship of federal and state governments in responding to a pandemic.  

On its website, the center offers updates and podcasts on COVID-19 as a public service, also tracking and detailing the timeline of government actions, such as stay-at-home orders, school closings, and economic policy changes related to the public health emergency in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.  

Meanwhile, big-city airports nationwide are seeking advice from the center on appropriate protocols during the crisis, such as public health best practices to help keep travelers and employees safe in airports, as well as recommendations for how to handle issues such as reduced work force and screening procedures to detect ill passengers. 

Greenberger and his colleague Trudy Henson, CHHS’s public health program director, have been flooded by media requests seeking their expertise since the COVID-19 outbreak began, with both appearing frequently on local and national television and radio. Greenberger and Henson are also in demand by reporters doing coronavirus stories, including these in The New York TimesThe Guardian, and The Baltimore Sun. 

Prof. Diane Hoffmann is a leading expert in health law and director of the law school’s Law and Health Care Program. She also directs the Maryland Healthcare Ethics Committee Network, a membership organization for ethics committees at hospitals and other health care facilities throughout Maryland. Through the network, Hoffmann and colleague Anita Tarzian, of the UM School of Nursing, are holding biweekly conference calls for hospital ethics committee members in the state to help them prepare for the possible implementation of an allocation plan for scarce medical resources, particularly ventilators, in Maryland.   

On March 31, The Baltimore Sun published Hoffmann’s op-ed, co-written with Tarzian, titled “Coronavirus: When there aren’t enough ventilators, who will live, who will die?,” in which they outline an approach, which was put together by a group of medical experts and bioethicists through a deliberative democracy process with Maryland residents, to making these devastating medical decisions.  

Speaking to WGBH Boston on April 3, Hoffmann explained how and when the triage process could go into effect and why it is important to legally protect health care workers who implement rationing of ventilators. “If you violate a standard of care you can be sued for negligence or medical malpractice, she said. For example, if someone is on a ventilator, and the ventilator is keeping them alive but someone else is more likely to survive, a physician couldnt take the first person off the ventilator without facing criminal or civil liability. As a result, in Maryland, health care providers are given immunity from lawsuits if rationing goes into effect. 

Prof. Leigh Goodmark is co-directorof Maryland Carey Law’s Clinical Law Program and directs the Gender Violence Clinic. Author of the recent book Decriminalizing Domestic Violence, Goodmark has been speaking out on criminal justice issues in the time of COVID-19, focusing on the effects of a spike in intimate partner violence as stay-at-home orders keep victims shut in with their abusers.  

In a March 22 New York Daily News opinion piecetitled “Domestic Violence is also a virus: During the coronavirus crisis, we need the right criminal justice response to the crime, Goodmark and colleague Aya Gruber explore the particular dangers of the criminalization of domestic violence in the time of COVID-19. 

ProfRena Steinzor, an expert on environmental regulations, is sounding the alarm on regulation rollbacks during the national emergency. On March 20, she told Politico“I am quite concerned that there will be an effort to rush deregulatory initiatives out the door while people are preoccupied...” Steinzor fleshes out this concern in a piece for The Regulatory Review titled The Pandemic and Industry Opportunism, in which she investigates actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency during the COVID-19 crisis.  

Faculty member Sarah Everhart is managing director for the Agriculture Law Education Initiative, a collaboration between Maryland Carey Law, the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources at UM College Park, and the School of Agriculture and Natural Sciences at UM Eastern Shore. Everhart and colleagues are offering resources to help the agricultural community adapt to the impacts of COVID-19with information on topics such as contracts, labor, and insurance available on the Agriculture Law Education Initiative website.  

Prof. Kathi Hoke is director of the Legal Resource Center for Public Health Policy, which offers pro bono legal guidance to state and local governments, legislators, non-governmental organizations, health advocacy groups, and Maryland residents. Through the center, Hoke is providing assistance to Maryland state and local public health officials on issues related to emergency public health powers during the COVID-19 crisisAlso director of the national Network for Public Health Law (Eastern Region), Hoke has been advising on how state and local governments can protect people experiencing homelessness when a jurisdiction is under a stay-at-home order, and working with tobacco control lawyers nationally on the impact of the virus on vape shops and whether they can or should be considered essential businesses during a shutdown. Hoke’s colleague at the network, Mathew Swinburne, has written on the issues of food insecurity and access to broadband for students as a public health issue during this pandemic. Kerri Lowrey, Hoke’s deputy director at the Network for Public Health Law, is addressing issues related to health information privacy during COVID-19 as well as protection of renters through eviction moratoria. 

We are lucky at UMB to be part of an amazing University with very talented medical professionals. As we face this pandemic, I am pleased that these and many more scholars at Maryland Carey Law are contributing as thought leaders, said Maryland Carey Law Dean Donald B. Tobin, adding, It is more important than ever that decision makers depend on legal experts as they create policy. I am proud that our scholars are part of these critical conversations.” 

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