LAW AND THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Special Issue: Law and the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 erupted and swept the globe in late 2019 and early 2020, a full-blown pandemic quickly and significantly affected the United States. As the public health crisis worsened in the winter and spring of 2020, it soon became clear that our national security institutions and processes were being tested, sometimes in new and unique ways.

A few JNSLP stalwarts commiserated with me about some of the legal and policy issues early on, and by April 2020 we had conceived this Special Issue of the Journal, focused on COVID-19. As the weeks and months passed, it became every more clear that the pandemic was continuing to pose challenges to government performance and national and global economies.

As editor, I realized that it would require recruiting guest editors who could help me recruit authors and then mentor their completion and editing through to the kind of excellent publication that we always demand. Editor in Chief emeritus Steve Dycus and long-time board member Gene Fidell quickly stepped into the guest editor roles, and the result is a stunningly good collection of short articles surveying and detailing many of the most vexing legal and policy problems associated with the pandemic. Steve and Gene deserve enormous credit for their dedication to the Special Issue and for their characteristic excellence as editors.

The articles have been written in short order by internationally recognized subject matter experts who have experience in government, the courts, the cyber domain, public health, human rights, international organizations, domestic military policy and policing, journalism, and several other disciplines. Some of the articles take a granular look at aspects of the pandemic, while others widen the lens to look at such issues as leadership.

As we expected, the authors assign blame where blame is due, and ask about accountability mechanisms for those officials and institutions who dropped the pandemic ball. We also include a comparative piece that helpfully contrasts the effectiveness of Canadian and U.S. institutions in dealing with the pandemic.

The goal of the Special Issue is not to keep score or assign blame. Rather, we hope that the articles illuminate a vast range of legal and policy issues that COVID-19 has spawned. We know that local, state, national, and international leaders will be grappling with this pandemic for some time. We also know that lessons learned from our experience with COVID-19 will be instrumental in how we manage the next crisis – whether it is another pandemic, or something entirely different but equally challenging.

Nor does the Special Issue purport to be an exhaustive account of the national security implications of the pandemic. Many important topics are not represented here, and the authors of these articles are careful to emphasize that the analyses here do not represent the last word on covered topics.

The Special Issue groups its articles into categories. The first focuses on who is in charge. A second grouping examines pandemic responses from the perspectives of health, privacy, military, and emergency law. A third concerns information from the perspectives of transparency and journalism. A final section includes an important comparative and international law perspective on cybersecurity and the pandemic.

On behalf of JNSLP, I sincerely hope that readers enjoy and benefit from this fine collection of pandemic scholarship.

William C. Banks
Editor-in-Chief
October 2020

Author Profile

William C. Banks
Professor William C. Banks is an internationally recognized authority in national security law, counterterrorism, and constitutional law. Banks has helped set the parameters for the emerging field of national security law since 1987, co-authoring two leading texts in the field: National Security Law and Counterterrorism Law. In 2008, Banks was named the College of Law Board of Advisors Distinguished Professor at Syracuse University, where he has been a member of the faculty for over 30 years.
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