Law in the Time of Plague

April 22, 2020 § 3 Comments

Some ruminations on our current state of affairs:

  • It was March 13, 2020, when the MSSC issued its first emergency administrative order to address covid-19 and the courts. From the vantage point of only a month and a week later, that seems like a century ago. What we hoped would be a week or two ordeal has persisted … and looks like it will continue to persist into the foreseeable future.
  • Who could have imagined the scope of isolation? If I ever gave pandemic any thought at all it was on my scale of worrisome things right around quicksand, poisonous cobras, and werewolves. Now I think about it — a lot. Living with pandemic is like living in a city stalked by a random shooter. You never know whether this particular trip to the grocery store is the one that will do you, or whether standing in line at the post office is where it will get you, or whether this visit to the court house …
  • The Governor is mulling over when to roll back the restrictions he imposed to limit spread of contagion. As for the courts, though, keep in mind that we are not subject to the Governor’s authority because we are a separate, equal branch of government. The MSSC has administrative authority over the courts. Of course the high court respects the Governor’s guidelines and tries to incorporate their boundaries into the court guidelines as much as possible, but in the final analysis the court goes its own way. My point being that, once the Governor drops his restrictions, do not expect the courts immediately to do the same. It might be that the courts may continue restrictions in place. Judges will continue to follow the MSSC’s Emergency Administrative Orders as long as they remain in effect, and as they are changed.
  • One salutary, I suppose, development has been to influence mossbacks such as I closer to use of Zoom, Face Time, and who knows what else to do the court’s business. That may end up being a long-term and even permanent change that the pestilence brought to our daily practice.


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