The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is having profound global health, societal and economic impacts. In addition, it is also affecting the rule of law around the world. Countries are suddenly wrestling with unexpected policy concerns, such as: How do governments and societies balance the need to protect the health of their populations while protecting individual private rights? How do democracies continue to respect due process rights, including rights to a speedy trial, a public hearing, and to confront one’s accuser, in the face of a pandemic? How do systems protect the health and welfare of detainees for whom they are responsible? At the same time individual courts, from the Supreme Court of the United States to municipal courts in rural locations, are seeking solutions to basic operational questions, such as: To what extent can they use technology, if it is available, to work remotely? How do judges protect their court staff if protective clothing and procedures are not in place? Where will funds come from to purchase newly necessary IT equipment and protective gear? Finally, many courts may find themselves confronted with novel cases in which litigants challenge being quarantined or seek to obtain medical treatments that they are being denied.
Any one of these questions, and a myriad more, present complicated issues that are not susceptible to easy answers. In an effort to share ideas, approaches, and issues with our counterparts and colleagues around the world, EWMI has compiled a collection of articles, webpages, and resources that provide guidance and information on how various aspects of justice systems in the United States and in other countries are responding to the pandemic. The materials, which by no means are intended to be exhaustive (and are mostly only in English) cover how the pandemic is affecting courts, prisons, and access to justice, among other issues. We hope that you find this information useful. Our goal will be to post periodic updates for as long as the information is helpful and relevant.The Rule of Law and COVID-19: Notable Resources