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Two centuries of law guide legal approach to modern pandemic

As COVID-19 continues its assault on the country, residents in more than 10 states have been ordered to stay home and businesses, including restaurants, health clubs and entire malls, have been closed as governors nationwide take extraordinary steps in an effort to protect public health. Under what legal authority do such orders fall – and are there legal limits on government actions during a health emergency?

Leading during a Crisis

When things are going well, it’s pretty easy being a court leader. Operations are going according to plan, caseloads are managed reasonably well, and there are no tricky decisions to make about work assignments, services, staff or budgets. It is still possible to screw things up, but a rising tide tends to lift all boats, or in our case, all court leaders. It is in a crisis that leaders show their mettle. Judges and staff will look to leaders for direction. Sometimes, as with the covid-19 pandemic, the problem will be something few bosses could have reasonably anticipated. Now, they are expected to chart a steady course within days as the crisis continues to unfold.

Court on wheels, virtual hearings roll out as Utah justice system grapples with coronavirus

Those answering criminal charges at Salt Lake City’s municipal courthouse Friday morning were redirected to the curb. They stepped up to the open side door of a humming, expansive RV now known as Courtroom 6. The defendants stood at the threshold one at a time as they spoke to a judge perched on a bench inside. The courtroom on wheels, now in its first week, is serving up justice food-truck style.