Coronavirus Negligence: Risk, Liability, and Liberty

WED, AUG 5, 2020

The pandemic has raised anew issues in which policy makers must address several key tensions: privacy, individual rights and the public’s right to know; individual freedom versus quarantine; and who is liable when coronavirus is contracted. At a time when we are discussing freedom and individual rights, the protests over the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others have raised concerns about America’s “other pandemic” — the long history of racism, discrimination, and the denial of basic rights and freedoms to minorities living in the United States. Join Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins and labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan for this convsersation moderated by Renée M. Landers, a professor of law at Suffolk University.

This Suffolk University lecture series, presented with the Ford Hall Forum and WGBH Forum Network, is designed as a broad examination of the themes of interest to political scientists and public policy experts. The series is part of a novel online course offered to incoming Suffolk students and made available to the public.

Register for this event here: https://wgbh.zoom.us/webinar/register/9415960261839/WN_rjHcdRi5R4G3sf_NUuD9WQ

+ BIO: Rachael Rollins

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins is the chief law enforcement official for Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, Massachusetts, and oversees an office of approximately 300 people handling approximately 35,000 new cases each year. She took office on Jan. 2, 2019, as Suffolk County’s 16th district attorney, the first woman to be elected to that position in Suffolk County history, and the first woman of color ever to serve as a Massachusetts district attorney.

Prior to seeking elected office, District Attorney Rollins served as a field attorney with the National Labor Relations Board in Boston, safeguarding employees’ rights; as an attorney with the law firm of Bingham McCutchen, handling first amendment, labor and employment, complex civil litigation, and criminal defense matters; and participated in an assistant district attorney rotation in Brockton District Court.

An attorney for 20 years with degrees from Northeastern University School of Law and Georgetown University Law Center, District Attorney Rollins is also a former Governor Deval Patrick appointee to the Judicial Nominating Commission, a past president of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, and was elected and served a three year term on the Boston Bar Association Council. She is a recipient of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association’s Trailblazer of the Year Award, was selected as Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly Attorney of the Year in 2018, and received the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Award from the Boston Branch of the NAACP.

+ BIO: Shannon Liss-Riordan

Shannon Liss-Riordan is widely recognized as one of the nation’s top plaintiffs’ class action employment lawyers. She has reshaped industries through her pioneering successes representing tipped workers, employees misclassified as independent contractors, and low wage workers who have been denied overtime, minimum wage, and other wage protections. Best Lawyers in America has called her “the reigning plaintiffs’ champion” (2013) and has said she is “probably the best known wage class action lawyer on the plaintiff side in this area, if not the entire country” (2015).

For 20 years, Ms. Liss-Riordan has brought and won groundbreaking lawsuits that have shaped the law protecting workers in the food service, cleaning, adult entertainment, trucking, and other industries. She is currently representing workers in a number of cases against “gig economy” companies that save on labor costs by misclassifying employees as independent contractors. She represents employees nationally, at the trial court and appellate levels, including six landmark victories at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Some of her most notable cases include victories against Starbucks, FedEx, and American Airlines. The Boston Globe has profiled her work twice as a “legal champion” fighting for the rights of low wage workers, and she has also been profiled in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, and the LA Times.

A graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard College, Ms. Liss-Riordan co-founded Lichten & Liss-Riordan, P.C. in 2009. Previously she was a partner at a plaintiff-side employment and union law firm in Boston where she worked for more than 10 years after clerking for a federal court judge for two years following law school.

+ BIO: Renée M. Landers

Renée M. Landers is Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School and is the Faculty Director of the school’s Health and Biomedical Law Concentration. President of the Boston Bar Association in 2003-2004, she was the first woman of color and the first law professor to serve in that position.

She has worked in private practice and served as Deputy General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Clinton Administration. Professor Landers recently concluded a one-year term as Chair of the Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice of the American Bar Association and is currently Chair of the Section’s Nominating Committee. She is a Trustee of the Massachusetts General Hospital and is a former trustee of the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary. She also has served as a member of the board of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and continues to serve on that board’s governance and risk management committees.

She was a member of the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct and served as Vice Chair of the Commission from 2009 to 2010. She served on the task force that drafted the revised Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct effective in 2016 and currently is a member of the Committee on Judicial Ethics which advises judges on compliance with the Code. Previously, she was a member of the Supreme Judicial Court’s committees studying gender bias and racial and ethnic bias in the courts.

An elected member of the National Academy of Social Insurance since 2008, she currently serves as Vice President of the NASI Board of Directors. Landers was a member of NASI’s study panels on Strengthening Medicare’s Role in Reducing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities and on Health Insurance Exchanges, and co-chaired the 21st NASI Conference on ‘’Social Insurance, Fiscal Responsibility, and Economic Growth’‘. She is the author of articles on the potential for Massachusetts health care reform initiatives to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health care and aspects of the Affordable Care Act. In addition to health care, Landers has written on diversity in the legal profession and privacy and is a regular commentator on legal developments in constitutional law, health law, and administrative law for media organizations.

Professor Landers has served as the president of the boards of Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, the Shady Hill School, the Harvard Board of Overseers, and has also served on the board of WGBH and the Board of Overseers of Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. She has received awards from Radcliffe College, Boston College Law School, Harvard College, the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, the Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Women’s Network. In
November 2018 she will be recognized as a Fellow of the American Bar Association’s Section of
Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice.

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Ford Hall Forum
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Politics In The Time Of Global Pandemic