Civil Justice Task Force: Policy Prescriptions to Address Economic and Health Care Challenges in the Face of COVID-19
The Civil Justice Task Force presents potential public policy prescriptions on issues pertaining to civil justice during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Resolving Potential Court Backlogs
Several courts throughout the country have postponed proceedings and trials for weeks or months, which will likely lead to a backlog in the court system going forward. States have an essential role to play easing that burden on the system.
States should encourage parties to a lawsuit to consider Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The ALEC model Alternative Dispute Resolution Act would encourage the use of arbitration or other alternatives to formal court proceedings to resolve disputes where a judge and the parties find the approach appropriate and are comfortable with pursuing a speedier solution outside of court. The approach may include early neutral evaluation, mediation, arbitration, mini-trial, or summary jury trial. Although the parties may elect from an assortment of ADR procedures, they are not required to do so. This voluntary approach would provide some relief to court backlog while safeguarding traditional litigation where the parties prefer it and it is more appropriate.
Limiting Liability for Volunteers and Charitable Organizations
States should encourage the formation of charitable organizations, preserving the resources of charitable organizations, and encouraging volunteerism. A key component of this is to limit liability of charitable organizations and their volunteers. The ALEC model Volunteer Immunity and Charitable Organization Liability Limit Act would limit the exposure of organizations and volunteers to lawsuits arising from their charitable activities, thereby encouraging nonprofits to provide important services, particularly during times of crisis, without fear of excessive litigation.
This includes those organizations providing health care, which is critically needed right now. These charities are absolutely essential and need to be able to provide for patients without the constant fear of litigation, especially in a time of a nationwide pandemic.
Ensuring Individuals Have Access to Information Online
During the pandemic, the ability to share the most current information is essential, and states should take steps to protect online platforms and services. The ALEC model Resolution Protecting Online Platforms and Services provides that the government should not be heavily regulating online platforms. Should the government attempt to censor or regulate online platforms during this time, Americans will be deprived of information that could impact millions of lives.
Policy prescriptions developed by our members can be found in ALEC Connect.