Saturday, November 01, 2014

Epidemics, Police Powers, and Public Health Law

A state's police powers to safeguard the public health, the legal source of quarantines, vaccine requirements, and other such measures, drew widespread interest this week with the ongoing Ebola epidemic.  Even when considered carefully in the light of scientific knowledge, these powers are often pitted against the civil liberties of the individuals to be quarantined or vaccinated. 

Yesterday, a Maine District Court judge ruled in favor of a nurse recently returned home from treating Ebola patients in West Africa.  She had challenged Maine's governor and state health officials who wanted her to continue in "in home" quarantine, not going to work or out in public, for 21 days, although she had never exhibited any symptoms of Ebola.  The judge ruled that pending a scheduled hearing, she need only submit to "direct active monitoring" as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, including coordination of her travel with public health authorities.  Read the judge's order here.

A brief introduction to public health police powers, and the landmark 1905 U.S. Supreme Court case that addressed these issues during a deadly smallpox epidemic, is provided by this recent Fortune article based on an interview with law professor Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University. It also references Professor Gostin's 2005 article, "Jacobson v. Massachusetts at 100 Years: Police Power and Civil Liberties in Tension" (95 Am. J. Pub. Health 576 (2005)), which further explores the legal issues confronted in the Jacobson case and in cases taken from today's headlines.     

Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Black Cat Day

Or, as you humans know it, Happy Halloween.

I will once again take the opportunity to extol the virtues of the Black Cat.

The ancient Egyptians were wise enough to worship us.

And to dispel myths - Charles I of England believed his black cat was good luck and he was proven right.   The day after his black cat finished her 9th life, Charles I was charged with high treason and ultimately beheaded.  So, make sure to keep your black cat around!!

And lest you wonder what the legal connection is, here are my results searching Google Scholar for cases mentioning black cats .   Note particularly, Equitable Life Assurance v. Berry in which the judge categorizes fear of a black cat as a mental disease.

Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

New CRS Report: The Appointment Process for U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations: An Overview

"In recent decades, the process for appointing judges to the U.S. circuit courts of appeals and the
U.S. district courts has been of continuing Senate interest. The responsibility for making these
appointments is shared by the President and the Senate. Pursuant to the Constitution’s
Appointments Clause, the President nominates persons to fill federal judgeships, with the
appointment of each nominee also requiring Senate confirmation. Although not mentioned in the
Constitution, an important role is also played midway in the appointment process by the Senate
Judiciary Committee. "  Read Denis Steven Rutkus' complete report.

Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Making of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978

Not everything is on Bloomberg, Lexis Advance or Westlaw Next, especially if you are looking for older documents.  The Making of Modern Law:  U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978 is an excellent source for Writs of Certiorari, Petitioner/Respondent  Briefs, Amicus Briefs and more.  There are a number of ways to search this database and a "Search Tips" link is available.

You might be surprised at some of the issues that are still controversial today.  These are primary source documents for U.S. judicial history.  Read for yourself the arguments pro and con made at the time.

Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat

Sunday, October 26, 2014

HeinOnline Training Videos

HeinOnline is recently in the process of updating its training materials including videos.  A new video has been added on how to print PDFs using HeinOnline.  New videos will be added every month on a range of topics including using Fastcase, search strategies, library-specific content and much more.  If you are interested in certain help video topics, HeinOnline is seeking additional suggestions here.  Access the new videos and upcoming videos here.

Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat