COVID-19 vs. the Constitution: How Far Can Governors Go to Fight the Virus?

April 6, 2020

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, April 8, Georgetown Law’s Project on State and Local Government Policy and Law (SALPAL) presents a live panel discussion – followed by Q&A – on: “COVID-19 vs. the Constitution: How Far Can Governors Go to Fight the Virus?”


The race to beat back the COVID-19 pandemic has been likened to a war, and as in wartime, the powers of both the federal executive and the governors in a public health emergency are very broad.

During these early days, leaders and the general public have had little time to think about how far government can go in ignoring federalism principles and constitutional protections of individual rights.

Governors have threatened to shut their borders and sent National Guard troops to meet domestic flights at airports. Roadblocks have been set up. The president briefly floated the idea of banning travel out of the New York area. And governors and mayors are competing with each other and FEMA to purchase vital medical and personal protective equipment.

With decisions made now setting precedent for a later date, expert panelists will review the scanty relevant case law; discuss the federal public health laws governing quarantine and travel limits; consider what powers governors have to limit individual rights and to keep nonresidents out; and explore how constitutional principles on the right to travel; privileges and immunities; and due process could be invoked.


Esha Bhandari – Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech Privacy & Technology Project

Lawrence O. Gostin – University Professor, Faculty Director, O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law

Juliette Kayyem – Senior Belfer Lecturer in International Security, Harvard Kennedy School; former Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; CNN National Security Analyst

Jeffrey Locke – Homeland Security and Public Safety Program Director, National Governors’ Association (NGA)

Meryl Chertoff (moderator) – Executive Director, Georgetown Law’s Project on State and Local Government Policy and Law (SALPAL) at Georgetown Law.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020
1:00 pm EDT


Webinar link available upon registration.


Please register via this link.



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