Levin College of Law

UF Law Leaders Shaping the Conversation

UF Law faculty regularly share their expertise on various public policy issues with national and international media. Below is a selection of opinion pieces, articles, quotes, and other media related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To reach our faculty who may speak to specific areas, please
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.

Articles and Opinion Pieces

 

 

March 13

TaxProf Blog

 

COVID-19 And The Future of the Academy

By D. Daniel Sokol

Like many institutions, the University of Florida is now an online university. We have a shock that will have significant implications for the future of higher education. COVID-19 is forcing universities to move more rapidly in their provision of online education. While some classes and programs already have been moved online, faculties across fields typically have been resistant to online teaching. This is especially true in law.

Read more here.


March 16

Tax Notes

 

Global Crises and Loss Planning

By Mindy Herzfeld

The political leadership behind the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was focused on using tax reform to bolster economic growth. But in enacting measures meant to make profitable companies even more profitable in the interest of increasing jobs, productivity, and investment, lawmakers may have weakened tax policy tools that help mitigate the effects of economic downturns. For one, by increasing the federal deficit, the TCJA limited the government’s fiscal policy levers. More broadly, in betting the bank on growth, the law may have made bankruptcy and losses more costly.

Read more here.


March 18

Yale Journal on Regulation

 

Unlocking Platform Technology to Combat Health Pandemics

By D. Daniel Sokol and Anindya Ghose

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries to trace and track every COVID 19 case. Tracking the spread of the virus is essential to effective mitigation of this health pandemic. During the ongoing worldwide healthcare crisis, one of the data-driven tools that has been shown to be effective in curbing the spread of this virus, is active contact tracing and monitoring of people who have come into contact with any suspected COVID 19 patient. Finding all the people who are infected and the people they have been in contact with to try to bring that infection chain to a standstill is imperative in mitigating the impact of this disease and the scale of this pandemic. Successful examples of these data-driven and technology enabled predictive practices have been shown in Taiwan, China, Singapore, Israel, and South Korea. Business data analytics have a critical role to play in this fight.

Read more here.


March 30

Tax Notes

 

Helping Loss Companies: What Can Treasury Do?

By Mindy Herzfeld

Federal and state lawmakers provide large fiscal relief packages for taxpayers in times of economic crisis, such as that resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Senate has passed radical measures to put cash in the pockets of taxpayers and businesses, including deferring 2019 return filings, offering cash payments, loans, and credits to individuals and businesses, and delaying payment of the employer payroll tax.

Read more here.


April 2

LiveMint

 

Access to mobile technology can be a matter of life and death

By D. Daniel Sokol and Anindya Ghose

What if the best tool to fight the coronavirus right now is not a vaccine—likely at least a year away—but a mobile phone? Smart mobile phones, app developers, and governments around the world can help deliver timely and accurate public health information and aid rigorous contact tracing to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Read more here.


April 6

Tax Notes

 

COVID-19 Upends the OECD’s Digitalization Project

By Mindy Herzfeld

The coronavirus pandemic has economies cratering. Healthcare systems are unable to ensure adequate support for caregivers and the ill; governments don’t know how to protect their citizens’ physical and economic welfare, with several heads of state under quarantine; and companies worldwide are under extreme strain. And yet the OECD has said that work on its project to address the tax challenges of digitalization will continue full steam ahead.

Read more here.


April 6

The Washington Post

 

This may be the time to harness the power of social media as a family

By Stacey Steinberg

Social media causes so many problems. It sucks away our time. It encourages us to compare ourselves to others. It strips us and our kids of privacy and sometimes safety.

But social media also has power. It has the power to connect us. It has the power to inform us. During a time when we must separate from our physical networks, it offers us a powerful virtual community. Our kids could benefit from online connectivity right now as well.

Read more here.


April 10

Bill of Health

 

Human Subjects Research in Emergencies: An Ethical and Legal Guide
(Part I)

By Jennifer Bard

The world is facing a medical emergency in the form of the rapid spread of a new virus, COVID-19, for which there is no known effective treatment and no preventive vaccine.

Without minimizing the need for haste or the significance of the threat, it is still important to remain aware of the risks inherent in rushing to treat patients with anything that might work and simultaneously conducting the research necessary to identify safety and effective interventions.

Read more here.


April 16

Religion News Service

 

Keeping Baha’i prisoners, Iran threatens the entire country’s health

By Winston Nagan

(RNS) — The ingenuity and adaptability of faith communities often go unreported. It’s been gratifying over the last many weeks to read story after story about the way people of faith have reorganized their practices and the very structure of their communities in response to COVID-19. This resilience has brought me a measure of comfort during this crisis.

This silver lining, however, is attended by quite a cloud. The past weeks have laid bare the more frustrating impulses associated with religion: congregations that have refused to suspend services; superstitious and disastrous thinking that COVID-19 can be conquered by prayer alone, without scientific and public health interventions; and some governments’ insistence on incarcerating religious prisoners of conscience, even when the prerogatives of public health demand their release.

Read more here.


April 20

The University of Chicago Law Review Online

 

The Federal Government Probably Can’t Order Statewide Quarantines

By Maryam Jamshidi

On Saturday, March 28, 2020, President Donald Trump floated the possibility of issuing a “quarantine” order for the states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut because of their numerous COVID-19 cases. Later that day, Trump backtracked and declared that a quarantine order would “not be necessary.” While quarantines can differ in type and scope, they generally involve restricting the movement of those exposed or potentially exposed to an infectious disease during its period of communicability.

Read more here.


April 27

Bill of Health

 

Human Subjects Research in Emergencies: The Texas Nursing Home “Study” (Part II)

By Jennifer Bard

In April 2020, Dr. Robin Armstrong, medical director of the Resort, a nursing home in Texas City, Texas, reported “signs of improvement” after he gave hydroxychloroquine, a drug approved by the FDA to treat malaria, to 39 of his nursing home patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Read more here.


April 27

Tax Notes

 

Tax Optimism for a Post-Pandemic World

By Mindy Herzfeld

It may be that the economic damage caused by the coronavirus crisis will create additional problems for multilateral tax reform efforts such as the OECD’s project to write new rules for the global digital economy.

Read more here.


April 30

Orlando Sentinel

 

Coronavirus tracking requires hard look at privacy concerns | Commentary

By Jon Mills

After the pandemic, everything will eventually return to normal. But our privacy may never be the same.

Health officials generally agree that to fully open society, three things are required: treating, testing and tracking. Everyone understands the need for treatment and testing. The third component, tracking, is less understood.

Read more here.


May 7

The New York Times

 

How to Keep Children’s Stress From Turning Into Trauma

By Stacey Steinberg

Children may be processing the disruptions in their lives right now in ways the adults around them do not expect: acting out, regressing, retreating or even seeming surprisingly content. Parents need to know that all of this is normal, experts say, and there are some things we can do to help.

Read more here.


May 11

The Conversation

 

Why the military can use emergency powers to treat service members with trial COVID-19 drugs

By Jennifer Bard

Infectious disease has always been one of the military’s greatest threats. By its own estimates, the U.S. Army lost almost as many soldiers from the 1918 flu as died on the battlefields of the first World War.

Troops are at risk during an outbreak due to the tight quarters in which they live and work. It is therefore not surprising that all branches of the service – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard – have been hit hard by COVID-19. The military has also played an important role in responding to the virus, from evacuating State Department officials from Wuhan in January to its current role building and staffing civilian field hospitals and augmenting civilian research teams.

Read more here.


In the News

 

 

March 13

Florida Today

 

Here’s why the state of Florida won’t say how many COVID-19 tests take place in a county

“They are limited in what they can disclose under Florida Law, unless it is “necessary to public health.” So someone, somewhere is making the judgement call that as of now, they can’t release more info because the privacy interests outweigh public health,” said Jennifer Bard, a professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law.

Read more here.


March 26

Politico

 

That ‘order’ to stay home? It’s just a suggestion

A state of emergency issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis bestowed Florida cities and counties with authority to take sweeping measures. Most have chosen not to act on that new power, said Jennifer Bard, a visiting professor of public health law at the University of Florida College of Law.

“There are no such things as ‘stay home’ orders,” Bard said. “There are terms and specifics of what you can and cannot do.”

Read more here.


March 31

Tampa Bay Times

 

Is Gov. DeSantis’ executive order asking New Yorkers to quarantine legal?

Legal experts in the state say the issue isn’t clear-cut. Michael Wolf, a University of Florida law professor and scholar in local government, said DeSantis could argue he used police powers to ensure the welfare of state residents, which is outlined in the constitution. However, Cuomo could argue the order is discriminatory to residents of other states and forbidden by the constitution.

Read more here.


April 9

WUSF

 

Sharing Addresses Of COVID-19 Patients With First Responders Raises Privacy Concerns

But with known community spread, inadequate testing and cases involving people who don’t display symptoms, University of Florida law professor Kenneth Nunn said first responders will never really know everyone who has the virus.

“So I don’t see what the benefit of releasing that information is now when we can assume that most of the people who you come into contact with, have come in contact with the virus in one way or the other,” he said.

Read more here.


April 11

The Atlantic

 

For China, the ‘USA Virus’ Is a Geopolitical Ploy

Political conspiracy theories appear even in the analog propaganda of decades past. Mark Fenster, the author of Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture, describes them as a “populist theory of power” serving an important communication function: helping unite the audience (“the people”) against an imagined secretive, powerful elite. So when state media in China, for example, create or spread these theories, the elite puppet master is the United States, a geopolitical rival. By exposing the villainy of its adversary, the Chinese Communist Party presents itself as a defender of its people.

Read more here.


April 15

Time

 

Stimulus Payments Are Being Sent to Millions of Americans This Week. Here’s How to Get Yours Faster

David Hasen, a professor at the University of Florida Law School who specializes in federal income tax law, tells TIME that the IRS has not yet indicated how long people have to submit their direct deposit information into Get My Payment before they’re sent a paper check instead.

Read more here.


April 16

Time

 

Receiving Government Benefits? Here’s What to Know About Your Stimulus Payment

How will benefit recipients receive their payment? The government will use the same information it uses to normally deliver benefits, David Hasen, a professor at the University of Florida Law School who specializes in federal income tax law, tells TIME in an email. For people on Social Security, Railroad Retirement or SSDI, the IRS will use the information provided on Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099 to send payments.

Read more here.


April 16

openDemocracy

 

A spectre is haunting the West – the spectre of authoritarian capitalism

Even in firms where the state is not the dominant shareholder, the Chinese party-state still has a significant amount of influence. As scholars Curtis J. Milhaupt and Wentong Zheng have highlighted, the boundary between state and private ownership of enterprise is often blurred in contemporary China. One reason for this is the role of the Communist Party in China’s economic life. Each organization with more than three Communist Party members must form a Party committee within the organisation, which in many cases has a significant influence over corporate decision making. This requirement extends not only to state-owned enterprises, but also to private companies and foreign-owned firms.

Read more here.


April 17

Florida Record

 

Florida law school deans call for decentralized approach to bar exams

“I do predict an increased demand for legal services in the state … just as we recover from the shift in our economy,” Laura Ann Rosenbury, dean of the University of Florida Levin College of Law and one of the letter’s authors, told the Florida Record.

The law school deans emphasized that new attorneys traditionally serve in important roles in government agencies and public-interest groups and that they would provide key services to businesses and individuals as they get back on their feet in the coronavirus aftermath.

In the letter, the deans offered the use of their campuses and classrooms for a more decentralized administration of the bar exam, with possible dates at the end of July and in September. The deans see this as a way to avoid students jammed at a single location, which would create health concerns and difficulties to maintain social distancing.

Having bar exams during both months was just one of the options the deans proposed.

“I don’t think we necessarily ranked the five options we set forth,” Rosenbury said. “We just wanted to present the court with multiple possibilities for bar exams to continue even amidst the covid pandemic.”

Read more here.


April 21

CBS 12 News

 

The New Us: Our ‘new normal’

Containing the Coronavirus will take some high-tech solutions according to law professor and privacy expert Jon Mills, Dean Emeritis at Florida Law School.

Apple and Google are working together to develop a voluntary app that traces contacts and notifies users if they were recently near someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

“Contact tracing is absolutely necessary, no matter how we do it,” said Mills.

Read more here.


April 23

PolitiFact

 

No, Democrats aren’t pushing microchips to fight coronavirus

There are legitimate concerns about privacy in some of the contact-tracing methods being considered to prevent the spread of coronavirus, experts say. However, “the fear of insertion of tracking chips and other things like that into our bodies has been a longstanding bogeyman,” said Mark Fenster, a law professor at the University of Florida who has written extensively about conspiracy theories. “There is a lot of tracking that goes on, but the suggestion that it’s being used in this manner and this way seems absurd.”

Read more here.


April 23

Treasure Coast Newspapers

 

‘Lock him up’ chants set the stage for Sebastian’s big question: Who’s the mayor?

Mark Fenster, a University of Florida law professor, went further, calling the votes taken in the Wednesday meeting invalid.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has relaxed some requirements of the Sunshine Law during the coronavirus crisis, Fenster said in an email, “But holding a meeting with insufficient notice, only three members present and no livestream or means for the public to comment goes beyond the councilors’ authority, and the meeting’s actions are invalid.”

Read more here.


May 8

The Washington Post

 

What white Americans can learn about racism from the coronavirus

Darren Hutchinson, a law professor who studies the law’s impact on race and gender, thinks white Americans can learn a thing or two about racism from the pandemic. How the fear and uncertainty they are feeling now is not unlike what African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and others feel all the time.

“Everyone’s vulnerable. In terms of geography, it’s all over the country. Every age group potentially can be affected. It’s across gender. And to the extent that structural racism impacts people along all of those axes, this is a moment where it’s really going to stand out. In terms of the fear that a lot of people, generally, have right now — and I know it’s higher among people of color — but this is the fear and anxiety that people of color experience on a daily basis. The virus is not only showing us how pervasive inequality is, it’s also giving us a moment to think about how living daily in that structural racism creates this anxiety.”

Read more here.


May 11

Tampa Bay Times

 

Chronister meets with pastor he had jailed. They talk about reopening Hillsborough.

Using non-coercive means to maintain order and safety in the community is a laudable goal for law enforcement, said Kenneth Nunn, a professor of criminal law and procedure at the University of Florida. But Chronister’s visit also could give the appearance he’s not impartial, Nunn said.

“That gives me cause for concern, that there’s some degree of special treatment being dished out that would run contrary to the ethical position the sheriff should be taking,” Nunn said. “It boils down to whether you would treat other people the same way and whether that appearance would suggest there’s some degree of favoritism.”

Read more here.


May 12

Men’s Health

 

We Fact-Checked 5 of the Most Dangerous Lies from the Viral ‘Plandemic’ Video

The conspiracy theory is easier to believe, though, since we are more likely to be familiar with action movie plots than functional polybasic cleavage sites. “The elements of conspiracy theories are also elements of other genres like mysteries and thrillers or soap opera,” said Mark Fenster, professor of law at UF and author of Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture.

Read more here.


May 13

MSN Money | Also Featured in The Wall Street Journal

 

Companies Start Reaping Billions in Tax Breaks to Help Ride Out Slump

The tax breaks, enacted in March, are a crucial piece of the government’s attempt to prop up businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, alongside Federal Reserve lending and the Small Business Administration’s loan-forgiveness program.

“They’re tinkering with the levers they have to get cash into the pockets of businesses, with the exception of just outright handing cash to them,” said David Hasen, who teaches tax law at the University of Florida.

Read more here.


May 15

The Alligator

 

Gainesville’s undocumented immigrants navigate COVID-19 without federal aid

Undocumented workers like M.J. are excluded from the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package passed on March 25 as they need a social security number to receive a stimulus check. M.J. also didn’t receive the $500 bonus given for dependent children under 17, for her son.

“They very specifically excluded people related to undocumented immigrants from receiving that check,” said Anastacia Greene, an immigration clinical fellow at UF Levin College of Law.

Read more here.


May 20

Bloomberg Law

 

Refusing to Wear a Mask at Work Could Get You Fired

The political divisions among Americans over the severity of the Covid-19 crisis—with some even claiming that the pandemic is a hoax—could give rise to workers who refuse to wear masks in symbolic protest. While that wouldn’t matter in the private sector, government workers have First Amendment rights if they’re speaking as citizens about matters of public concern.

But government employers have the authority to enforce regulations on their employees’ conduct designed to protect health, safety, and welfare of the public, said Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida.

A public employer’s ability to enforce a safety rule that’s generally applicable to its workers would trump an individual worker’s free speech rights, Calvert said.

Read more here.


May 20

PolitiFact

 

No, the Gates Foundation isn’t pushing microchips with all medical procedures

Though tracking technology has been used to combat the coronavirus — in Singapore, China and South Korea, for example — human-rights groups have privacy concerns. But any worries about widespread microchipping don’t reflect what’s actually happening.

“The fear of insertion of tracking chips and other things like that into our bodies has been a longstanding bogeyman for theorists,” said Mark Fenster, a University of Florida law professor who has written extensively about conspiracy theorists and spoke to PolitiFact for another microchipping fact-check. “There is a lot of tracking that goes on, but the suggestion that it’s being used in this manner and this way seems absurd. This comes from the stream of conspiracy theories of the last 50 years. It has nothing to do with science and everything to do with conspiracy theories.”

Read more here.

May 20

Times of San Diego

 

Court TV: Fox News Hearing in COVID-19 Lawsuit Set for YouTube Live

Fox lawyers ridicule that “astounding claim,” saying in a brief filed Tuesday that even if the group is right about Fox News hosts and guests deceiving viewers on the dangers of the virus, “the Constitution protects Fox’s speech as a matter of law.”

Agreeing with Fox is Clay Calvert, a First Amendment expert and University of Florida law school professor.

Even from 3,000 miles away, Calvert at home in Gainesville sees flaws in the lawsuit by the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics.

Read more here.

May 21

Orlando Sentinel

 

Thriving companies getting hundreds of millions in federal coronavirus tax breaks

But if the goal was to throw another coronavirus lifeline to corporations, Congress “probably could have done a little better job in terms of targeting,” said David Hasen, a University of Florida professor of tax law.

“The government could have just as easily handed out cash,” Hasen added. “It might have been more effective to do it that way from an economic perspective. But there’s long been an aversion to the idea that governments give handouts. This is economically identical, but the optics are better for the government.”

Read more here.


May 26

The New York Times

 

White Woman Is Fired After Calling Police on Black Man in Central Park

But even without the pandemic and the location, the legacy of these kinds of confrontations looms large, according to Professor Katheryn Russell-Brown, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law.

“It was particularly a punch in the gut for a lot of people,” Professor Russell-Brown said. “It ties into and taps into a long history of white women, in particular, falsely accusing black men of crimes that leads to great harm.”

Professor Russell-Brown is the author of “The Color of Crime,” in which she explores the phenomenon of the “racial hoax” in which people fabricate crimes perpetrated by people of another race.

“This is deeply offensive,” she said. “Particularly as we are in a climate writ large of the expendability of black and brown lives in the midst of Covid-19.”

Read more here.


Other Media and Special Projects

 

April 11

PODCAST

 

Platforms for Disruption – (Part-1, Manish Gupta, CEO Indegene)

Platform businesses are transforming how businesses operate. From food delivery to retail, social media, lodging, rideshare, logistics, and medicines (among others), platforms disrupt existing business models significantly and rearrange market structures. In a series of podcasts, the hosts, Professor Viswanath Pingali, IIMA and Professor Daniel Sokol, University of Florida, speak to leading academics, government officials, and industry leaders on chronicling this disruption and its competitive effects.

Part-1:

IIMA Prof. Viswanath Pingali and Prof. Daniel Sokol, University of Florida interacted with Mr. Manish Gupta, CEO, Indegene on “how technology is redesigning business models of healthcare companies, and how entrepreneurs can survive in the world filled with uncertainty.”

Listen here.


April 30

KCBS RADIO

 

U.S. Treasury Asking for Return of Stimulus Money Sent to the Deceased

Coronavirus economic impact stimulus checks started making their way to Americans earlier this month, and as it turns out, even the deceased are getting paid.

But now, the U.S. Treasury wants that money back.

To learn more, KCBS Radio news anchors Jeff Bell and Patti Reising spoke with David Hasen, Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Listen here.


May 6

Recorded Broadcast

 

#COVIDLawBriefing: Human Subject Research

Professor Jennifer Bard joins public health law experts for a briefing on human subjects research during COVID-19.

Watch the recorded briefing here.


May 8

NPR’s All Things Considered

 

Listener Questions On The State Of The U.S. Economy, Answered

Professor Stephanie Bornstein provides expertise on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Listen here.


Updated May 27, 2020