Legal scholars explore COVID-19 pandemic’s impact in virtual symposium

Law School’s Legal Forum hosts speakers on government authority, policy adaptation

The COVID-19 pandemic has had enormous implications for public health and scientific research, but these disciplines are not the only ones that will shape how society emerges from the crisis: Legal scholars will also play an important role in assessing our institutions’ response to the pandemic and shaping policies to achieve better outcomes in the future.

In a virtual symposium presented by the University of Chicago Law School journal Legal Forum, scholars from around the world share their ideas about COVID-19’s legal ramifications.

Legal Forum, a student-edited journal now in its 35th year, focuses on a single cutting-edge issue annually. Its most recent choice of topic was straightforward: The COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted lives around the world by forcing lockdowns, infecting millions of people and seriously impacting economies.

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“At the University of Chicago, we aspire to generate innovative ideas and scholarship that breaks new paths,” said Thomas J. Miles, dean of the Law School, in a video message introducing the symposium.

 “We seek to bring this disciplined thinking to bear on the most important social topics of our time—this year’s symposium certainly fits that criteria,” said Miles, the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Law and Economics.

The symposium, which is available on YouTube, features conversations about the legal lessons from the pandemic, and how those can be carried forward to help policymakers focus their energy more effectively in future health crises.

Across three hourlong sessions, experts discuss topics such as government authority in public health emergencies; pandemics and economic policy; and how the law has adapted to pandemics of the past, present and future. Chief Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer of the Northern District of Illinois, an alum of the Law School, also took part in a live Q&A session about the federal court’s response to the pandemic.

Moderators from the Law School included Lect. Aneil Kovvali, Prof. Jonathan Masur and Prof. Jennifer Nou. In addition to scholars from UChicago, the event hosted speakers from institutions such as Yale Law School, the Emory University School of Law and the Australian Centre for Health Law Research.

“I think COVID-19 gave us an opportunity for an even richer symposium,” said Claire G. Lee, a law student and Legal Forum’s editor-in-chief, noting that the virtual format allowed participants from around the world to partake in the discussions. For more information on the symposium and the full list of speakers, visit the Law School website.