The University of Miami School of Law inaugurated a trio of ground-breaking 90-minute online webinars about law and the global pandemic. Professor Lili Levi, Vice Dean for Intellectual Life, said that the idea for the series originated with Anthony E. Varona, Dean and M. Minnette Massey Professor of Law, “who thought early on that scholars, students, the press, and the general public would have an appetite for a broad-ranging intellectual exploration of critical socio-legal issues raised by the pandemic.”
The free series launched on March 30, 2020, with "The Law of COVID-19: Miami Law Addresses Civil and Human Rights, Public Health, Financial Stability, Poverty and Privacy Law in Pandemic America."
Moderated by Professor Carrie Bettinger-Lopez and featuring Professors Caroline Bradley, Mary Anne Franks, JoNel Newman, Rebecca Sharpless, and Kele Stewart, the first webinar used the lenses of public health, technology, immigration, family law, and financial regulation to reveal and explore the differential impacts of pandemic disease on vulnerable populations.
On April 7, "The Law of COVID-19: Miami Law Addresses Crime and Law in Pandemic America," panelists Judge Jennifer D. Bailey and Professors Donald M. Jones, Irwin Stotzky, Scott E. Sundby, and Theresa J. Verges, along with moderator Professor Donna Coker, provided an overview of various ways in which the coronavirus and the responses to it intersect with criminal law and process. The panel provided a broad look at the challenges of remote judicial operations, the impact of the pandemic on prison conditions, concerns about prisoner release programs, challenges presented by domestic violence responses, moral panics, and the increase in gun sales as well as the extent of criminalization assisted by global surveillance, the privacy-reducing impact of technological innovations, and the types of financial crimes weaponized by the pandemic.
The final discussion, "The Law of COVID-19: Miami Law Addresses Politics in Pandemic America," aired live on April 14, showcasing moderator and presenter, Professor Charlton Copeland, and Miami Law Professors David Abraham, Frances R. Hill, Gabriel Scheffler, and Professor Gregory Koger, Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Miami. The panelists addressed constitutional, statutory, and policy issues, such as the impact of emergencies on presidential election outcomes, the challenges of holding a general election in the context of a pandemic, congressional and state legislative responses to COVID-19, and the politics of our healthcare financing system―especially Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Other topics included the politics of information and disclosure in pandemics and the politics of class and sovereign authority in the U.S. and elsewhere under such conditions.
That the three webinars all told attracted over 1,000 registrants confirmed Dean Varona’s instinct.
“I am proud to say that rich conversations by legal scholars all over the country have followed our lead," said Dean Levi, who spearheaded the series project with the help of Hakim Lakhdar, Director of Professional and Intellectual Life Programming at Miami Law.
“The Law of COVID-19 webinars provided a glimpse into the rich intellectual life of Miami Law. I am grateful to our many talented and generous University of Miami colleagues—and to our outstanding judicial panelist—who volunteered on very short notice to provide food for thought, enhance public discussion, and build community in these exigent times.”
According to Jason P. Kairalla, Esq., President of the Law Alumni Association, “our excellent and engaged alumni, regardless of graduation year, love to hear 'their' faculty’s take on the most pressing and challenging issues of the day. Many said they thought this was a terrific series, demonstrating the continued strength, excellence, and ambition of our school.”