Jun 05, 2020
Law at the Center of Crisis Upon Crisis
Jun 05, 2020
By Robert Rosborough
When I wrote my introduction for the last Marin Lawyer, the world was a different place.
We had originally planned the theme for this issue to be the environment. As SARS-CoV-2 (the official name for the novel coronavirus) made its way around the world, articles relating to the virus seemed a natural extension of our theme. And when sheltering in place separated us not only from our colleagues but from much of our ordinary lives, there seemed to be little else to talk about besides the virus. Hence we bring you an issue mostly about the pandemic and just a few of the many unusual legal issues it raises.
Not long before publication, already in the midst of one crisis, society lurched into another, this one triggered by the latest manifestation of an epidemic going back centuries: racist violence. The murder of George Floyd seems cataclysmic. I hope so. Because we need to change. Be sure to read Sue Feder's President’s Message spurring us to action. Our September issue’s theme is criminal justice and I suspect the content will not be what we imagined a few months ago. Just last month, who would have thought the Insurrection Act of 1807 might be a topical article for the Marin Lawyer?
We do have a couple of articles on traditional environmental fare: Chris Locke fills us in on the state of renewable energy and David Lazerwitz recounts a quintessentially Marin CEQA case stemming from adapting Marin’s trails for multiple uses.
We have quite a few articles addressing practical aspects of the pandemic that may arise for your clients or even for your own business. (Speaking of your own business: if the imminent shelter-in-place orders distracted you from our March law practice management issue, it contains many articles on practical aspects of running a solo or small firm.) When was the last time you thought about force majeure? Daniel Schneider gives us a primer on force majeure clauses and the likelihood of invoking them because of the pandemic. He also teaches us something about business interruption insurance, where famed chef Thomas Keller is leading the charge for pandemic coverage. The prolific Mr. Schneider ventures into slightly more academic territory with a discussion of the Constitution’s Contracts Clause—which may actually have a very practical effect on the relief many business owners may get.
What not long ago might have been a very academic topic is now one arising in a variety of practical contexts: travel restrictions. Karthik Raju explores what states and local jurisdictions can and cannot do—some of the answers may surprise you. David Edmondson teaches us about the difference between density and crowding and its relevance for the spread of COVID-19 and for urban planning in Marin. The pandemic has elevated many once obscure laws and legal doctrines to the forefront of the legal landscape. Some of them may have less relevance to your everyday life than others, but they are often fascinating. If you’d like to read—or better yet, write—about topics like election laws (can you say, “Wisconsin primary”?), please get in touch with me.
Returning to the eminently practical, teams of lawyers from WilmerHale bring us highly informative articles on reopening workplaces, one with lots of great advice about the many things to think about and do when reopening and another with a primer on the CDC’s guidance for reopening, including for office buildings. These are worth checking out even if you are just curious about your own workplace.
Be sure to read Charlie Dresow’s review of Pale Rider, a book about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and the many things it has to teach us for today (and the importance of history). Then meet Emily Charley, one of MCBA’s newest directors. And ponder political columnist Greg Brockbank’s usual astute observations about the results of our local March primary and the potential dynamics of the upcoming state and national elections. And finally, Nestor Schnasse profiles the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, which provides services needed now more than ever. I’d like to thank this issue’s guest editing team: Karthik Raju, Nestor Schnasse, Chris Locke and Greg Brockbank. The law plays a central role in so many facets of our current crises. If you have something you’d like to read or write about for the September issue, let me know!
Rob Rosborough is Of Counsel to Monty White LLP. He mediates disputes where an ongoing relationship is at stake, particularly adult-family conflict such as disagreement over caring for an aging parent, and HOA disputes. He also maintains an estate planning and HOA practice. Rob teaches at USF’s Fromm Institute (conflict resolution and history of science) and helps lawyers cope with the practice of law by teaching them meditation skills as a certified iRest® meditation teacher.