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Northwestern University

Law in the Time of COVID-19: A Northwestern Teach-Out

Northwestern University via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


The COVID-19 crisis raises a number of important legal issues. The matter of federal authority, growing principally out of the White House’s orders, looms large. The actions of governors and local authorities have been especially critical, as emergency shelter-in-place and other important regulations are directed at individuals and businesses. Health care strategies, such as telemedicine, and decisions of the Food & Drug Administration prompt specialized legal considerations. At the person-to-person level, many matters of legal duty and liability arise, emerging from contracts, insurance, and employment relations.

Even as the disease curve flattens, legal issues will persist. For example, the necessity for testing and tracing infected individuals raises difficult issues of privacy as the government engages in surveillance and continues its strategies of control. This Teach-Out is an opportunity to explore together how the law impacts and is impacted by events as they unfold around us.

This free Teach-Out will begin on Monday, April 27th and run for four weeks. In an attempt to stay as current as possible, we will be releasing the course materials on a rolling basis each week.


  • Public Health, Mitigation, and Governmental Responses: Federal, State, and Local
    • We will consider federal efforts, including the emergency declaration and the scope of national power. We will focus especially on state mitigation efforts, including the shelter-in-place and travel restrictions. What is the power of state governments to impose these severe regulations? What are the implications of these orders on state and local authority over individuals and businesses?
  • COVID-19 Regulation and Civil Liberties
    • How should we think about the tradeoff between governmental authority in this time of a severe health crisis and constitutional rights and liberties, including the right to travel, assemble, and exercise our religious liberty?
  • COVID-19 Regulation and Civil Liberties, Continued
    • We continue to examine civil liberties issues as they arise in connection with COVID 19, looking in particular at voting, eminent domain, and privacy issues that emerge from evolving efforts to trace and track individuals who are or might become infected.
  • Legal Issues in the Public Health Ecosystem
    • A number of important legal issues arise from the actions of medical professionals, including front-line doctors and nurses, and also public and private sector folks working on treatments and vaccines. We will consider here the performance of government and private companies in providing ventilators and personal protective equipment, the Food & Drug Administration in regulating drug therapies, and the use of so-called telemedicine to treat COVID-19 and other medical conditions.
  • Legal Duties and Liability
    • We will consider some of the myriad disputes arise out of individual and business interactions, including contractual duties, business interruption insurance, tort liability arising out of the conduct of businesses, workplace health & safety regulations, and employment law.
  • Criminal Justice and Society's Most Vulnerable
    • Coming to the end of our course, we will discuss some of the difficult issues that arise in our criminal justice system, including adaptations in our pre-trial, trial, and post-trial process and also the impact of COVID-19 on incarcerated issues. We will also touch on the legal issues involving immigration.

Taught by

Daniel B. Rodriguez


4.5 rating at Coursera based on 32 ratings

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