Existing Guides to Operations and Legal Issues during a Pandemic Useful Tools for Trial Court Leaders

Six years ago, the United States experienced a public health scare concerning the Ebola virus. In October of that year, a petition was filed in a Maine court challenging the quarantine and active monitoring of a local nurse who had recently returned home from working with patients in West Africa and may have contracted the virus. Courts across the nation took notice as well as the Conference of Chief Justices.

Through an SJI grant, a Pandemic and Emergency Response Task Force was created in December 2014, to help courts better prepare for the complex legal issues that public health crises present. Two years later, a report and guide by the National Center for State Courts entitled “Preparing for a Pandemic: An Emergency Response Benchbook and Operations Guidebook for State Judges and Court Administrators” was published. It offers strategies and resources to assist court leaders in taking steps to keep courts open and to be able to respond to persons seeking emergency relief, while protecting the health and safety of communities. Download the Pandemic and Emergency Response Task Force Report (PDF).

Also, another helpful tool for court leaders is a PowerPoint presented at NAPCO’s First Annual Conference (2016) in Cleveland by Chief Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere, Maine District Courts, in a workshop entitled “Pandemic Planning: What to Do when Ebola or Zika Comes to Town”. Judge LaVerdiere forged the practical solutions that protected the public, preserved individual rights, and ended a 3-day standoff between Maine’s nurse petitioner and State government. Download Pandemic Planning: What to Do when Ebola or Zika Comes to Town (PDF).