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Quarantine Law: Constitutional & Practical Considerations

(156 reviews)

Produced on August 16, 2016

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Course Information

Time 60 minutes
Difficulty Beginner

Course Description

The 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak led to an increased focus on the quarantine policies and laws of the states and federal government in light of the large numbers of volunteer health care workers who traveled to West Africa to combat the epidemic and, upon their return, faced quarantines and other movement restrictions even when such restrictions were not scientifically justified. Individuals returning to the United States faced a patchwork of state laws and policies governing when and how quarantines might be imposed on them, leading to uncertainty over how such quarantines could be challenged. This program aims to provide an overview of states’ quarantine laws, which could come into play in future public health crises.


State laws and policies on public health quarantines vary in the procedural requirements they impose on a state, in the evidentiary showing that must be made to justify a quarantine, and in whether or not the state must guarantee adequate conditions during a quarantine, such as access to food. Additionally, any state quarantine law, policy, or practice must comport with constitutional due process requirements.


This course, presented by Esha Bhandari, Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, reviews the procedural and substantive laws governing state-imposed public health quarantines, identifying the most common types of legal requirements. The course also provides a constitutional framework for evaluating quarantine laws and policies, including the minimum standards that must be met before a state can quarantine an individual in the name of public health.


Learning Objectives:

I.      Identify typical state laws and policies governing public-health quarantines

II.     Gain a constitutional framework for evaluating state quarantine laws and policies

III.    Receive practical guidance on how to challenge an individual quarantine order

Credit Information

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Esha Bhandari

American Civil Liberties Union

Esha Bhandari is a staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, where she works on litigation and advocacy to protect freedom of expression and privacy rights in the digital age. She also focuses on the impact of big data and artificial intelligence on civil liberties. She has litigated cases including Sandvig v. Sessions, a First Amendment challenge to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act on behalf of researchers who test for housing and employment discrimination online, and Alasaad v. Nielsen, a challenge to suspicionless electronic device searches at the U.S. border.

Esha was previously an Equal Justice Works fellow with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, where she was involved in litigating cases concerning a right to counsel in immigration proceedings and immigration detainer policies. Esha is a graduate of McGill University, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and Columbia Law School, and served as a law clerk to the Hon. Amalya L. Kearse of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.


Curt M.

Best course thus far!

Geoffrey K.

The speaker made a very organized and effective presentation.

George J.

The discussion of need for new state laws was especially appropriate.

John D.

The lecturer was knowledgeable and provided a good presentation of the material.

Craig B.

Well organized presentation.

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