With the advent of COVID-19 and the rise in Black Lives Matter demonstrations around the world, the Georgia State Law community spent the summer leading the way towards justice.
At Georgia State Law we often say that attorneys are problem solvers, and as our community and world faced a global pandemic and civil unrest, students, faculties, and alumni used their expertise to help people. The faculty spent hundreds of hours mastering online teaching. Students participated in virtual outside internships, social justice demonstrations, and hundreds of hours of volunteer legal work with organizations in Georgia and beyond. In addition, College of Law graduates touch every corner of the state’s legal community, from the capital to rural courts. Here’s a look at how some of our faculties, students, and alumni make a difference when people need it most.
Andrea Curcio, Professor of Law Curcio has been researching licensing processes for bars for almost 20 years. Given the global pandemic and public health issues, she and a team of scientists have proposed alternative licensing practices, including a privilege for an emergency pandemic diploma. For states that disagree with this option during the pandemic, they advocate: (1) licensing based on successful completion of seven to nine hours of clinical courses; or (2) a period of supervised practice culminating in an affidavit from a supervisor confirming the work done and the competent execution of that work by the new attorney. They suggest that these approaches be at least as valid as this year’s bar exam to protect the public and assess whether graduates are ready to represent clients.
Erin Fuse Brown, Director of the Center for Law, Health and Society and Professor of Law Fuse Brown’s research on medical bills has expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some patients have reported receiving medical bills over $ 1 million after being hospitalized. Fuse Brown asks if at a time when so many are losing their jobs, access to COVID-19 tests and treatments should come with an employer-provided insurance plan. With the Supreme Court due to hear the Affordable Care Act case this fall, the question is more important than ever.
Timothy D. Lytton, assistant dean for research and faculty development, distinguished university professor, and professor of law Lytton has focused much of his scholarship on transfer liability during the pandemic. He published in The Conversation, “Businesses Insecure Reopening Subject to Tort Liability” and “Why Offering Immunity to Coronavirus Is a Bad Idea” in The Conversation and was quoted in several major publications, including New York Times and on the BBC News.
“The threat of civil negligence lawsuits provides business owners with a strong incentive to take reasonable precautions to prevent transmission of the virus.”
Tiffany Williams Roberts (JD ’08), Associate Director of the National Institute of Ethics and Professionalism and Associate Professor As protests erupted across the state following the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks, Roberts became increasingly concerned about the use of military force against people exercising their first adjustment rights. She also feared arrested protesters might have trouble paying bail as many people had lost their jobs due to COVID-19. During the summer, she worked with JUST Georgia and the Southern Center for Human Rights to defend protesters and train lawyers on how to tackle civil rights cases.
Eric Segall, Ashe Family Professor of Law The impact of the pandemic on religious freedom was at the center of Eric Segall’s article “Forced Closure of Churches During Coronavirus: Both Legal and Proper”. In it, Segall argues that the exemption of churches, synagogues and mosques from the generally applicable quarantine recommendations is a mistake and a misinterpretation of the constitution. He says, “During this crisis, not only is it perfectly legal under state and federal law, it is obviously right for the American people.”
Laura James (JD ’21) James has been with CNN since 2015 and began studying part-time at Georgia State College of Law in 2017. As a content producer, James is responsible for working with CNN partners in the US to collect content, source live coverage, and pitch stories to each show team on the network. Shortly after the pandemic began, she had to quickly get comfortable working from home while still posting content on both the COVID-19 pandemic and social justice riots to keep viewers updated hold. James was enrolled in Public Health Act for the spring semester, which enabled her to better understand how the pandemic was playing out and to be more comfortable while gathering relevant content for reporting.
Eli Cohen (JD ’20) Cohen is an officer in the National Guard. On April 6, he was appointed to head a chemical department charged with disinfecting nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Their mission shifted later in the month to operate coronavirus test sites.
Che Johnson Long (JD ’21) Long has worked as a community organizer for 15 years, with a focus on redirecting funds from prisons to prevention programs. She is the director of ditching at the Racial Justice Action Center. That summer they organized demonstrations after an unarmed black man, Rayshard Brooks, was killed by Atlanta police officers. She supported the protest by coordinating security, including working with law enforcement officers.
Long believes civil disobedience is an important legal tool, and “It is our job as legal scholars to point out when laws are unjust.”
Yasamine Jalinouszadeh, (JD / MSHA ’21) Jalinouszadeh assisted the Georgia Health Policy Center’s Medicaid Policy and Business Team, the Health Reform Work Group, and the Health in All Policies Team with legal research. She prepared and prepared a working summary and analysis of the CARES Act which is designed to provide economic aid and relief to COVID-19. Jalinouszadeh was also a member of the Corps of the Systemic Justice Project, where she served on a committee on systemic racism in health care. Her research has focused on healthcare differences and how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected people with skin color and the inaccessibility of healthcare for this population group. The aim of the committee was to raise awareness of legal rights that can protect these individuals and guidelines that address the issues.
Chandra Burns (JD ’17), vice president of human resources at Aveanna Healthcare Burns have affected almost every area of the healthcare system in the past six months. She helped develop a payroll program to keep nurses paid when they can’t work, and developed a resource and fast track program that allows nurses with reduced hours to apply for increased unemployment while in 24 different states Legal alerts monitored impact on employees. She has also worked to care for medically vulnerable children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel like it’s a new law or a new guide every day, but it’s nothing compared to the battle our frontline nurses and therapists are waging,” Burns said. “My team is just working on keeping them out to take care of the kids who need it.”
Lindsey Churchill (JD ’91), VP and Associate General Counsel of the InterContinental Hotels Group Churchill has advised businesses on operational and legal risks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This affects all areas, from differences in international regulations for hotel operations to clauses on improved cleaning and force majeure in event contracts. “It will be a recovery process for the hotel industry,” Churchill said. “Guests need to know that standards don’t differ that much when they visit a Holiday Inn.”
Megan Douglas (JD ’12), Assistant Professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine Douglas’ legal research team at Morehouse School of Medicine received a $ 40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Minority Health to help fight COVID-19 in racially and ethnic minority, socially vulnerable, and rural communities. They are working with Google, the CDC Foundation, and several other organizations to create a virtual platform that will track the racial and ethnic differences exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Douglas is also involved in research by the National Center for Primary Care that examines the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities in Georgia and the United States
Kym Sorrells (JD ’96), District Attorney, Jefferson County Attorney’s Office Sorrells has worked closely with the Colorado Attorney General to interpret the state’s “stay-at-home” and “safer at home” instructions, and has drafted many local public health orders. In Jefferson County, Sorrells helped raise more than $ 100 million in CARES Act funding. She has also created deviation requests to allow certain businesses to open while leading enforcement efforts related to public health contracts.
Written by Alex Resnak, Kelundra Smith, and Mara Thompson