New COVID Response Speaker Series Launches with “WCL Faculty Speaks: States of Emergency in International Law and the Current Pandemic

May 13, 2020

Clockwise from top left: Professors Fernanda Nicola, Robert Goldman, Macarena Saez, and Dean Emeritus Claudio Grossman.
Professors Fernanda Nicola, Robert Goldman, Dean Emeritus Claudio Grossman, and Macarena Saez.

American University Washington College of Law has launched a new faculty webinar series – “WCL Faculty Speaks” – to address key legal and policy issues impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The series of live webinars, hosted by Washington College of Law legal experts, address the state of international human rights, health law and policy, constitutional rights, national security, and more during the pandemic.

“Our faculty includes prominent scholars in a wide range of legal specialties affected by the pandemic,” said Professor Jonas Anderson, associate dean for scholarship at AUWCL. “Through ‘WCL Faculty Speaks’ we plan to share our experiences, analyze the present situation – from national and international viewpoints – and provide context that will help attorneys, law students and anyone interested in how the world is changing to expand their knowledge of important aspects of the impact of COVID-19. This is news you can use: how COVID-19 is impacting these diverse areas of legal practice and how that impact shapes the way people live.”

The first webinar in the series, States of Emergency in International Law and the Current Pandemic, took place May 20 and addressed the global impact of COVID-19.

Watch The Webinar Here

Participants, and their areas of expertise, included:

  • Professor Robert Goldman – International Law, Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, Terrorism and Human Rights.
  • Professor and Dean Emeritus Claudio Grossman, member of United Nations International Law Commission  International Human Rights, International Comparative Law, International Organizations.
  • Professor Fernanda Nicola, director of the Program on International Organizations, Law and Development – European Union Law, Comparative Law, Law and Development.
  • Professor Macarena Saez, director of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law – Human Rights, Gender and Sexuality, Family Law, Comparative Law.

Saez spoke specifically about the disproportionate impact that the response of COVID-19 has caused for particular marginalized populations.

“There’s some perception these measures are neutral, because they’ve been implemented in ways that should impact everyone,” Saez explained, but added that for those that were in positions of inequality before the pandemic, these measures have the potentiality to exacerbate those instances of inequality further. These measures should take closer consideration to things such as race, poverty, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and age, Saez said.

“It’s easy to say 'you should stay at home' when you have a bathroom at your house and running water, many rooms, and when get along with your family," she said. "It's very difficult for people with no houses, or very tiny spaces – with the minimum conditions that would allow them to shelter in place."

During the Q&A portion, Goldman also pointed out discrepancies on the health care front, both internationally and domestically.

“We are in seeing every place in the world the unequal and disproportionate impact that this virus is having even in many of the wealthiest countries, including the United States," he said. “Things are going to come out of this. Out of every kind of tragedy frequently offers an opportunity. And I think we’re going to have far greater acceptance of the notion of the paramount importance of the right to health – just as fundamental as the right to life, and freedom from torture.”  

"WCL Faculty Speaks: COVID-19 and Public Health Law"

Thursday, June 11, 2 p.m.

The second webinar in our “WCL Faculty Speaks” webinar series will take place Thursday, June 11 at 2 p.m. and feature Professor Lindsay Wiley, director of the AUWCL Health Law and Policy Program, as she addresses the impact of COVID-19 and the current pandemic on public health law.

With Lawrence O. Gostin, Wiley is the co-author of Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint (3d ed. 2016) and Public Health Law and Ethics: A Reader (3d ed. 2018). She has also authored numerous book chapters and articles on public health law and ethics, including on the prevention and control of climate sensitive and zoonotic infectious diseases. Her publications on the coronavirus pandemic response have appeared or are forthcoming in The Washington Post, the Harvard Law Review Forum, Health Affairs Blog, the American Constitution Society’s Expert Forum, the Berkley Forum, and Democracy.

The June 11 webinar will feature the following discussion topics:

  • Conflicts over the constitutional and statutory roles of federal, state, and local governments in pandemic response.
  • Legal issues confronting schools – from elementary schools to universities – as they weigh plans for Fall.
  • Travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19.
  • Legal challenges to stay-at-home orders based on civil liberties and separation of powers.

This live webinar will be led by Professor Jonas Anderson, AUWCL’s associate dean of scholarship.