Monday, March 23, 2020
Lawsuits challenging COVID-19 quarantines and restrictions on public gatherings may be doomed to failure. Experts who spoke with Bloomberg Law and the New York Times said the government has broad powers to handle a public health crisis. Lawsuits are unlikely to be successful unless they are challenging “a truly egregious practice,” according to James Hodge, law professor at Arizona State University, who spoke with Bloomberg Law. “The idea that you’re going to walk into court and object vehemently and successfully against known, proven public health social distancing measures that are being employed currently is not a winner,” he said. State and local officials who declare emergencies have even broader powers than the federal government, according to Elizabeth Goitein, a director of the liberty and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s law school. “The federal government has more money, but state and local officials have police powers, essentially their authority to maintain public health and safety,” Goitein told the New York Times. Goitein says those powers can include the authority to impose curfews and quarantines, limit public gatherings, ban people and traffic from the street, ration or impose price controls on goods, and suspend alcohol consumption. A relevant law at the federal level is Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act, according to Politico, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.