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How To Tackle First Amendment Issues Amidst Shelter In Place Orders: Navigating A City Attorney’s New Normal

The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is referred to as “novel” and it is now presenting novel and constantly changing legal issues for city attorneys relating to the enforcement of and various challenges to Executive Orders, Emergency Health Orders, Shelter In Place Orders, and Reopening Plans. First Amendment issues are arising relating to requirements and limits placed on the actions of individuals, such as social distancing, mandates for wearing masks, numerical limitations placed on public protests and worship services, closures of and/or restrictions on the operation of businesses, and limitations on gatherings and travel.

The presenters address the current state of the law on these issues as well as address practical issues related to COVID-19 restrictions including the permissibility of curfews and dispersals orders amidst the pandemic and whether the wearing or refusal to wear a face mask is likely to be considered protected speech by the courts. The presenters also address how these novel legal issues can be viewed and interpreted through the lens of prior jurisprudence from milestone events of the recent past such as the Rodney King riots. Finally, the panel will discuss various enforcement mechanisms and the substantial financial stakes at play if local jurisdictions choose to ignore State mandates. With the ever-evolving government measures being enacted to combat the novel coronavirus, this presentation will provide guidance as to the developing legal framework and practical tips for navigating this new normal in the time of the coronavirus.