BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In the event of an emergency or disaster -- be
it a devastating hurricane, sudden infectious-disease outbreak,
terrorist attack or freak October snowstorm -- an array of legal
issues will arise affecting the speed and effectiveness of
And when a crisis occurs across borders, international legal
obligations and restraints present challenges that can further
affect emergency response.
This is why "legal preparedness" is key among many factors
essential to an effective emergency response, explains Sheila
Shulman, research associate professor in the UB Law School and the
School of Public Health and Health Professions.
"Public health officials, health care providers, private
entities, institutions and corporations, as well as the broader
community need a clear and fundamental understanding of basic
public health law, clarity about the broader legal obligations and
constraints that will govern in the event of a community crisis,
and recognition of the complex ethical challenges that inevitably
will emerge," Shulman says.
To address these issues, the Baldy Center for Law and Social
Policy in the University at Buffalo Law School will hold a day-long
public symposium Nov. 17 on "Public Health Emergencies and Legal
Preparedness: A Cross-Border Challenge." To be held from 8:30 a.m.
to 4 p.m. in the Screening Room in the Center for the Arts on the
UB North (Amherst) Campus, the symposium will feature presentations
from public health attorneys and officials from the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of
Homeland Security and the Canadian government, among others.
The symposium is intended for public health officials, health
law attorneys, hospital and corporate risk managers, and law
According to Shulman, the symposium's organizer, legal
preparedness for an emergency involves all levels of
government—local, state and national. Gaps in legal
preparedness among these entities have become apparent, in part
because the task is complex, she says.
"Serious work in re-evaluating our public health laws has been
under way for some time, but we believe it's helpful to continue
the conversation, which is one of the reasons for our symposium,"
Symposium keynote speakers will include Dan Stier, public health
analyst for the CDC, and James Young, who directs public safety and
emergency preparedness for the government of Canada.
A morning panel discussion will focus on "Cross-Border Public
Health Emergencies: Legal Issues -- Past, Present and Future,"
moderated by Douglas Sider, associate medical officer of health for
the Niagara Region Public Health Department. Among panel
participants, Jane Speakman, a Toronto-based attorney, will discuss
"SARS, The Toronto Experience: Moving Forward," and Richard Buck,
border health manager for the New York State Department of Health,
will discuss "The Great Lakes Border Initiative: Cross Border
Communication in Practice Today."
An afternoon panel discussion on "Privacy Concern: Legal
Protections in Community Crisis Situations" will feature a
presentation by Kenneth Mortensen of the U.S. Department of
A second afternoon panel discussion will analyze legal
preparedness for a hypothetical emergency. "Incident at Airport X:
Quarantine Law and Limits" will be moderated by Frederic Shaw from
the Office of the Chief of Public Health Practice, CDC. Panel
participants will include Mary Ann Buckley, senior attorney,
Bioterrorism and Emergency Response, New York State Health
Department; Anthony Billittier, Erie County health commissioner,
representing Western New York Public Health Alliance; Kevin
Corsaro, public affairs officer, Buffalo Field Office for Customs
and Border Protection; Justice Kevin Dillon, New York State Supreme
Court; Wilfredo Lopez, general counsel for health, New York City
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Paul Edelson, Federal
Quarantine Officer, Kennedy Airport; Michael Marszalkowski, special
counsel, Damon & Morey LLP; and Kenneth Mortensen, U.S.
Department of Homeland Security.
The cost of attending the symposium is $30 for the general
public. Admission is free for UB faculty and students, but
registration is required. For more information about the symposium
and to register for it, go to http://www.law.buffalo.edu/baldycenter/publichealth06.htm
or call 645-2102.