Law

08 April 2020

Law
  • Internship Experience at Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission, Mumbai: A Visit to Juvenile Justice Homes in India #Must Read
    08 April 2020
  • Compra de Mascarillas y Demás Equipo de Protección Personal en China: No Apto Para Miedosos
    08 April 2020

     

    Para Adrián Cisneros Aguilar* y Dan Harris

    En las últimas dos semanas he comenzado a referirme a mí mismo -medio en broma, medio en serio- como un abogado con mascarilla. Lo he hecho porque he estado empleando varias horas al día trabajando con empresas que desean comprar cubrebocas y otro equipo de protección personal (PPE, por sus siglas en inglés) en China, así como con empresas que creen que desean comprar PPE en China.

    Nuestros abogados especializados en China, tanto en EE.UU., como en España y México están recibiendo un flujo continuo de llamadas y correos electrónicos referentes a protectores faciales, guantes, goggles, lentes de protección, batas, gorras desechables, cubrebocas, respiradores y cobertores desechables para zapatos. Estamos también trabajando con empresas que buscan que les suministren ventiladores. Al mismo tiempo, estamos siendo contactados regularmente por teléfono, correo-e y, especialmente, vía WeChat, por individuos y empresas en China que buscan vender PPE a los Estados Unidos

    Existen, fundamentalmente, dos clases de compradores:

    1. El individuo o empresa que “conoce a alguien en China que tiene una cantidad enorme de PPE que quiere vender”, y que desea la ganancia rápida derivada de comprar dicho equipo y revenderlo.
    2. Prestadores de servicios médicos (sobre todo, grupos de hospitales) que desean, desesperadamente, adquirir PPR para proteger a su personal médico.

    Los anteriores son dos tipos muy diferentes de compradores. A continuación, trataré de ellos de manera general:

    Los Compradores con Afán de Lucro.

    Este comprador normalmente llama o escribe por correo buscando ayuda legal para una pregunta y, frecuentemente, una que ni siquiera es relevante. El comprador enfatiza que “necesitan” comprar “rápidamente” una cantidad enorme de PPE en China, por lo que “necesitan” que nos reportemos con ellos a la brevedad porque la negociación concluirá pronto. Frecuentemente, continúan preguntándonos cómo pueden determinar si su proveedor chino de cubrebocas está aprobado por la FDA (Food and Drug Administration, por sus siglas en inglés, la dependencia del Gobierno Estadounidense encargada de la regulación de alimentos (tanto para personas como para animales), medicamentos (humanos y veterinarios), cosméticos, aparatos médicos (humanos y animales), productos biológicos y derivados sanguíneos) o si nuestro despacho puede abrir una cuenta bancaria para que ahí se deposite en garantía el pago, para liberarse una vez que se vea que el producto es conforme.

    Nuestra respuesta a estas preguntas consiste en decirles que la aprobación de la FDA normalmente no se requiere para cubrebocas y que más bien deberían preguntarle a su proveedor chino si estaría siquiera dispuesto a celebrar un Contrato de Depósito en Garantía, pues nosotros no sabemos de ningún fabricante que lo haya hecho. Por lo general, comenzamos nuestros correos de respuesta a este tipo de compradores con algo como lo siguiente:

    Entiendo que hoy ha llamado a nuestras oficinas buscando ayuda legal para comprar e importar cubrebocas de China, y me atrevo a suponer que lo quiere hacer tan pronto como sea posible. ¿Ha leído nuestro muy reciente post  en el China Law Blog, acerca de las dificultades actuales para comprar producto en China, especialmente PPE? Si no lo ha hecho, lo conmino a hacerlo.

    En estos momentos, estamos representando a muchas empresas que buscan comprar cubrebocas en China inmediatamente. Hasta ahora, hemos completado una transacción grande de suministro de insumos médicos y estamos en varias etapas de colaboración con grupos grandes de hospitales, en transacciones que involucran compras por cientos de millones de dólares. Tristemente, muy pocos de los proveedores potenciales de PPE que investigamos pasan la prueba y por tanto, al final del día, pocas transacciones son cerradas. Concebimos nuestra labor como abogados como una de protección a nuestros clientes del montonal de actores malos e incompetentes ahí afuera en estos momentos. ¿Desea que le prestemos esa clase de asistencia?

    Cuando nos contratan para estos casos, lo primero que hacemos, normalmente, es investigar al o los vendedores, a fin de determinar si son reales o no. Inclusive, hemos formado, dentro de nuestro despacho un equipo especial de abogados y auxiliares jurídicos (todos ellos con dominio bilingüe del mandarín e inglés) para investigar las fábricas en China y cualquier intermediario.

    Nos estamos encontrando con que, muchas veces, la empresa que dice ser la fábrica china elaborando el PPE en ese país no es más que un intermediario buscando asegurar producto si y cuando reciba una orden de compra, o bien, es solo un estafador planeando quedarse con el dinero de la compra sin importar nada (ver abajo).

    Hace algún tiempo, la FDA flexibilizó las restricciones impuestas a cierto PPE. Sin embargo, para importar ciertas clases de cubrebocas, tanto los cubrebocas y mascarillas, como la empresa china que los fabrica, deben cumplir con los requerimientos NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, por sus siglas en inglés, la agencia federal estadounidense encargada de hacer investigaciones y recomendaciones para la prevención de enfermedades y lesiones relacionadas con el trabajo). Hasta ahora, alrededor de 9 de cada 10 certificaciones NIOSH que hemos visto habían sido falsificadas.

    Uno de los problemas que seguimos viendo es que empresas chinas que fabrican calcetas o juguetes ahora se promueven en el mercado, aparentemente vendiendo cubrebocas y mascarillas. Esto puede y ha sido problemático en varios aspectos. China tiene sus propios requisitos de fabricación generales y sus requisitos particulares para los PPE. Por un lado, China no quiere hampones afuera vendiendo malos productos, empañando con ello la reputación de su país, como ha estado ocurriendo en Europa recientemente.

    Por el otro, China preferiría ver su PPE de calidad yendo a países que son de su agrado, y no a países que no lo son. Como ha ocurrido con su Iniciativa de la Franja y la Ruta, China ha estado utilizando el suministro de PPE como una herramienta geopolítica, y no veo que esta estrategia concluya pronto, si es que alguna vez lo hace.

    En nuestra experiencia, incluso las mejores de estas empresas chinas no son completamente conscientes de cuánto su Gobierno NO desea que le estén vendiendo insumos a los EE.UU. o Canadá, en contraposición a vendérselos a países como Italia o España, a los cuales China desea desesperadamente influenciar. Y hablando de España (donde de hecho tenemos una oficina realizando algo del trabajo de apoyar empresas que desean comprar PPE en China), ese país acaba de gastar una pequeña fortuna comprando kits de prueba de coronavirus que simplemente no funcionan. Vean este artículo para algo de contexto al respecto (en inglés).

    Luego tenemos la cuestión de qué se admitirá importar en los EE.UU. o la Unión Europea y lo que puede usted vender legítimamente en esos lugares. Dada la actual mezcla de pseudo-fábricas chinas (las que resultan ser simples intermediarios o estafadores) y fábricas chinas reales que no tienen ni idea de cómo elaborar el producto ordenado (por ser fábricas de calcetas) y otras fábricas que no saben cómo elaborar productos que satisfagan los estándares estadounidenses, es un verdadero lío ahí afuera.

    Para colmo, vender PPE y no entregar mercancía alguna al individuo o empresa que pagó por ella es LA estafa perfecta en estos días, en un mercado donde la demanda supera con mucho a la oferta y probablemente lo hará por el resto del año.

    En las últimas dos semanas he hablado con tres empresas que perdieron, cada una, más de un millón de dólares americanos comprando cubrebocas. Dos de estas empresas habían comprado con su proveedor acostumbrado, que no se especializaba en la fabricación de PPE. Estas dos empresas habían hecho negocios con sus proveedores chinos durante al menos cinco años y por tanto ordenaron -y pagaron- más de un millón de dólares en cubrebocas. Una no recibió literalmente nada, mientras que la otra recibió máscaras de Halloween empolvadas y húmedas. La empresa que recibió las máscaras de Halloween no contaba con un contrato apropiado para China, estipulando claramente lo que estaba comprando. Véase Especificidad en los Contratos Para China y el Azul Universidad de Carolina del Norte, así como Las Cinco Claves Para Tener un Contrato para China que Funcione (ambos en idioma inglés).

    Los insto a que lean esto y tomen nota del hecho de que prácticamente a cualquier empresa manufacturera china le está yendo mal en estos momentos, por lo que vender una cantidad enorme de mascarillas o cubrebocas (que ni hacen, ni tienen) se ha vuelto el perfecto canto de las sirenas. Para un buen artículo acerca de qué tan mal le está yendo a la economía manufacturera de China, revisen La Segunda Ola de Contaqios Ya Le Está Pegando a las Fábricas Chinas (en idioma inglés).

    Por casi dos décadas, nuestro equipo especializado en manufacturas en China ha venido lidiando con fábricas chinas, así que hemos pasado por varias de las ralentizaciones económicas de ese país. Sabemos lo que ocurre durante estas depresiones, y ést6a es diferente solo en su profundidad y amplitud. Los insto a leer este artículo que escribí, en inglés, para eI Wall Street Journal, durante una ralentización anterior de la economía china.

    Como dijo aquí uno de nuestros abogados especializados en China en relación con la compra de insumos médicos en China: “hoy más que nunca, nos encontramos diciéndole a las empresas que si no están dispuestas a invertir tiempo y dinero en hacer todo lo posible para asegurarse que sus compras de producto concluyan con ellos recibiendo efectivamente esos productos, entonces no deberían realizar la compra, para empezar.”

    La verificación de la legal existencia de su vendedor es un primer paso necesario, pero hay muchas otras cuestiones a considerar. Para proteger a las empresas que compran insumos médicos de China, nuestros abogados especializados en fabricación internacional usualmente tratan con los clientes las siguientes cuestiones:

      1. ¿Es legal para la empresa extranjera venderle el producto? ¿Obtendrá dicha empresa aprobación de su Gobierno para hacerlo?De nuevo, China quiere que sus Productos PPE (artículos como cubrebocas, respiradores N95 y ventiladores) vayan a países que percibe como “amistosos” y no a países que no percibe como tales, como los Estados Unidos.
      2. La empresa con la cual pretende comprar este producto, ¿en verdad existe? ¿Está legalmente constituida y cuenta con los permisos necesarios para fabricar el producto que planea comprarle? En otras palabras, ¿la empresa es legítima? ¿Cómo puede estar tan seguro de que recibirá el producto que ordene y pague? En Investigación de Empresas Chinas: La Introducción (en idioma inglés), hablamos acerca de este tipo de investigación básica que realizan nuestros abogados para determinar si una empresa china es real o no, y realizamos el mismo tipo de investigación para hacer esta determinación con empresas en cualquier otro país. En un porcentaje muy por arriba del 90% de los casos que ven nuestros abogados, en los que alguien envió dinero y recibió a cambio producto inútil o ningún producto en absoluto, la debacle podría haberse prevenido con una investigación básica de la empresa en falta, la cual habría revelado que la empresa misma vendiendo el producto en cuestión era falsa.
    • ¿Puede importar el producto legalmente?¿Cumple con los estándares de su propio país? Justo esta semana, una empresa nos llamó, tras haber comprado productos que no cumplían con los estándares de su propio país y que por tanto esencialmente no servían para nada. Habían recibido de la empresa china, vía correo-e, vagas confirmaciones de que el producto cumplía con “estándares internacionales”, pero, dado que nada en su contrato estipulaba claramente que el producto debía cumplir con los estándares del país que importaba, el comprador, de irse a juicio, tenía argumentos legales muy débiles contra su proveedor.
    1. ¿Cómo puede estar tan seguro de que su proveedor le enviará el producto en la calidad que le ordene y pague?Inspecciones de control de calidad y contratos relevantes al caso y bien redactados  son aquí claves. Véase LAS Reglas Cuando Se Fabrica en el Extranjero (en idioma inglés).
    2. ¿Cómo puede evitar que su proveedor copies u producto y lo venda por todo el mundo? Véase Cómo Evitar los Problemas con Fábricas Chinas y de Robo de Marcas, Que Están Ocurriendo Como Nunca Antes (en idioma inglés).

    Y si se contestan satisfactoriamente todas las preguntas anteriores, viene la cuestión de la contratación del suministro de producto. Nuestro equipo jurídico especializado en China  ha venido elaborando de 5 a 10 Contratos de Fabricación para China al mes por los últimos 15 años, aproximadamente, y eso significa que sabemos no solo lo que funcionará para proteger a nuestros clientes, sino lo que es razonable para China y lo que las empresas chinas aceptarán y lo que no.

    Yo entiendo que muchas empresas esperan poder utilizar una cuenta bancaria para ahí depositar en garantía sus pagos al comprar PPE en China. Eso sería genial si funcionara, pero simplemente no estamos viendo nada de eso con nuestros fabricantes legítimos chinos de PPE. ¿Por qué tendría que aceptar el fabricante un pago vía depósito en garantía, cuando tienen una larga lista de compradores dispuestos a comprar sus artículos a precios mega inflados? Incluso nuestros compradores que son grandes cadenas de hospitales están, cuando mucho, obteniendo términos de compra de 50% de anticipo y el resto contra recepción en destino (una transacción pequeña manejó 25% de anticipo y el resto contra recepción, pero se trataba de un proveedor de mucho tiempo). Para una idea general de cómo son estos Contratos de Suministro/Fabricación, véase Contratos de Fabricación en el Extranjero (Contratos de Fabricación de Equipo Original, de Fabricación y de Fabricación de Diseños Originales), en idioma inglés.

    Los Compradores Prestadores de Servicios Médicos.

    Esta clase de comprador normalmente nos llama o escribe porque ya no saben qué hacer, se encuentran normalmente en un epicentro del COVID-19 y contemplando una inminente y peligrosa escasez de PPE. Este comprador está soportando una enorme presión de sus propios ejecutivos y personal médico para que “haga algo.”

    A este comprador le están diciendo varios miembros de su personal médico y ejecutivos que conocen a alguien “que conoce a alguien en China que puede enviarles una cantidad grande de PPE.” Este comprador es experto en la compra de insumos médicos y sabe que no será así de fácil.

    Es para esta clase de comprador que hemos formado en nuestro despacho lo que, en esencia, es un equipo de compra y debida diligencia de PPE. Este equipo se encarga de obtener información clave acerca de cada vendedor de PPE propuesto por los clientes, para emitir una determinación afirmativa o negativa inicial en cuanto a su legitimidad. Si dicha determinación es negativo, la labor del equipo termina ahí. Si es positiva, procedemos a hablar con nuestro cliente acerca de hacer un análisis costo-beneficio, con relación a los pasos a seguir.

    Si el cliente está comprando sólo una pequeña cantidad de producto (lo cual es raramente el caso) que con desesperación necesita inmediatamente, podríamos aconsejarle que soliciten a nuestros abogados elaborar un contrato sencillo en idioma mandarín y la compra puede proceder rápidamente. Si la compra es por cantidades considerablemente mayores, podríamos aconsejar que se haga debida diligencia adicional acerca el proveedor chino (de nuevo, tan rápido como sea posible), lo que podría involucrar enviar a uno de los nuestros a la fábrica, o hablar con el banco del proveedor o un funcionario gubernamental de nuestra confianza para saber más del proveedor. Igualmente, el contrato para esta transacción en particular muy probablemente será más elaborado.

    Ahora, con todas estas transacciones, debemos mantenernos conscientes del objetivo final. Éstas no son operaciones en las que nuestros clientes y aquéllos bajo su cuidado (su personal médico y sus pacientes) puedan ser tan metódicos y cuidadosos como nos gustaría en circunstancias normales. No, ésta es la clásica situación en la que no podemos permitir que lo perfecto se vuelva el enemigo de lo bueno. A estos clientes les decimos que no hay manera de que podamos eliminar el riesgo completamente y que vemos nuestro trabajo como uno de reducir dichos riesgos al máximo posible, al tiempo que damos debida consideración, en todo momento, al objetivo último: salvar vidas.

    Con relación a la protección de su propiedad intelectual e industrial en estos tiempos frenéticos, vale la pena repetir lo que dijimos recientemente en  Cuestiones Jurídicas del Coronavirus Alrededor del Mundo, Parte 5: Obtener Producto en el Extranjero Nunca Había Sido Tan Arriesgado (en idioma inglés):

    En estos tiempos frenéticos, tendrán que apoyarse en las autoridades locales incluso menos que en épocas anteriores al COVID-19. Las redadas por violaciones a la propiedad intelectual e industrial se encuentran en un lugar muy deslucido..

  • The Role of Celebrities and Well Known Personalities in the Fight Against COVID-19
    08 April 2020

    In absence of a tried and tested drug or vaccine for COVID-19, the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) must urgently enforce its guidelines for ‘advertisement of drugs’ in Ghana and the circulation of information by well-known personalities which has the effect of derailing the work of public health officials in Ghana. 

    Celebrities in Ghana in the last few years have had conflicts with the FDA regarding their involvement in the advertisement of alcoholic beverages. The apparent conflict is borne out of the  enforcement the ‘Guidelines for the Advertisement Foods’ by the FDA. This has resulted in some beverage manufacturing companies engaging other celebrities from Nigeria to market their products on social media.

    Currently, the bigger problem we have on our hands is the circulation of inaccurate information which poses a threat to the fight against COVID-19 in Ghana. In March 2020, Nigeria reported two cases of chloroquine poisoning after Donald Trump tweeted about the anti-malaria drug as a treatment for COVID-19. This caused Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control to disclaim the use of chloroquine and warn persons that its use will cause harm and may result in death.

    Videos and posts of some Ghanaian religious leaders and other well-known personalities have shown them proffering the use of various drugs and  products as treatment for COVID-19. This is forbidden by the FDA’s guidelines for the advertisement of drugs. Paragraph 3.2.3 bars persons from advertising any drug (including orthodox, herbal and homoeopathic) or chemical substances unless such advertisement has been approved by the FDA. Advertisement under the guidelines is defined to include ‘a representation by any means for the purpose of promoting, directly or indirectly, the use, sale or disposal of a product’. Therefore, advertisement of unapproved drugs for the treatment of various diseases on the internet, radio, notices, television and other platforms are proscribed. 

    Conscious of the impact ‘well-known personalities’ have on the population, the guidelines prevent any reference to scientists, health professionals or well-known personalities such as religious and political leaders, movie, music and sports figures who by virtue of their status could encourage consumption of products, to the detriment of the health of persons in any form of drug advertisement. 

    It is an offence to contravene the guidelines and a person who contravenes it is liable to a fine of not less than GH¢90,000 and not more than GH¢180,000. In addition, an offender may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than fifteen years or not more than twenty-five years.  

    Thus, in making statements, advertisement or publication about drugs during this difficult period, well-known personalities should understand that there is an implied duty of care in their relations with Ghanaians. Consequently, they must exercise due care when they share information ostensibly to advise the public on the health benefits associated with certain drugs or products. This is because they must know or ought to know that reliance is being placed on their status, skill and judgment.  Disclaimers cannot absolve such offenders of criminal liability, if the circumstances show that if reasonable caution and observation had been used, they would have realised that their actions would probably cause or contribute to causing some members of the public to use unapproved substances or drugs to treat COVID-19. 

    We have been advised by the World Health Organisation and Ghana Health Service to follow the preventive protocols by washing our hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitisers; maintaining social [physical] distance  of at least  one metre; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth and staying at home if we are unwell or having nothing important that affects life. 

    The FDA has the responsibility to help the government in flattening the curve and preventing a health crisis associated with substance or drug abuse.

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  • Sean Molloy: Covid-19, Emergency Legislation and Sunset Clauses
    08 April 2020

    On 25 March, the UK passed the Coronavirus Act 2020 as part of its attempt to manage the coronavirus outbreak. The Act introduces a wave of temporary measures designed to either amend existing legislative provisions or introduce new statutory powers in order to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 (See Nicholas Clapham’s Conversation post here on the content of Bill). As countries around the world enact similar laws, there are notable concerns regarding not only the impact of emergency provisions on human rights, but also the potential of emergency powers to become normalised. One response is to utilise sunset clauses. This piece argues that while sunset clauses are both welcome and necessary, they should nevertheless be approached with a degree of caution.

    Legislation in times of emergency

    Following agreement by both Houses of Parliament, the Coronavirus Bill received Royal Assent on 25 March transposing the Bill into primary legislation in the form of The Coronavirus Act 2020 (c. 7). The Coronavirus Bill Explanatory Notes capture the Act’s existence as emergency legislation that ‘enables the Government to respond to an emergency situation and manage the effects of a covid-19 pandemic.’ Amongst other things, the Act attempts to increase the available health and social care workforce, ease the burden on frontline staff and contain and slow the virus. Conversely, the Act also grants police, immigration officers and public health officials new powers to detain “potentially infectious persons” and put them in isolation facilities.  It will also enable the government to prohibit and restrict gatherings and public events for the purpose of curbing the spread of Covid-19.

    Similar pieces of legislation have been passed across the globe, sometimes following a declared state of emergency and other times existing as emergency provisions (see Asanga Welikala on differences between states of emergence and emergency legislation). In Scotland, for instance, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 passed through the full legislative process at Holyrood in a single day. In Ireland, The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 was passed by both houses of the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament) and was signed into law by the President on 20 March 2020. On Sunday 22 March, France’s two-chamber parliament adopted a bill declaring a health emergency in the country to counter the spread of the coronavirus, a move that gives the government greater powers to fight the spread of the disease.

    Through emergency legislation, special and extraordinary measures are enacted to respond to certain crises, in derogation of existing standards and rules.  The adoption of emergency provisions invokes differences of opinion regarding their appropriateness and necessity. On the one hand, emergency legislation is thought to enable the state to respond effectively to crises while keeping the exercise of emergency powers within the rule of law. It reflects that in extraordinary times, Parliament must make some allowance for the passing of laws quickly and effectively should circumstances demand it. On the other hand, emergency provisions, in granting powers to the state that circumvent ‘normal’ legislation, can have adverse effects on the enjoyment of rights to life, a fair trial, liberty and security, and freedom of assembly and association, as examples (see Amnesty International; Joint Committee on Human Rights; Greene). Times of emergency can, therefore, produce what Oren Gross terms a tension of ‘tragic dimensions’ between democratic values and responses to emergencies.

    Where one sits on the potential trade-off between government intervention and individual rights and freedoms during times of emergency is a matter of personal opinion (see different contributions from Koldo Casla and Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarous). It is, however, the longer-term implications and impacts of law adopted in response to emergences that raises additional and arguably greater concerns. There is always the risk that exceptional or emergency powers, granted for temporary purposes, can become ‘normalised’ over time. Alan Greene has noted, for instance:

    History shows us that emergency powers often outlive the phenomenon that triggers the introduction of emergency powers in the first instance. While the need for exceptional powers may be obvious at the outset of the emergency, assessment of the point where these powers are no longer needed is considerably more problematic.

    Elliot Bulmer also identifies that many governments have used emergency powers inappropriately— needlessly prolonging or renewing states of emergency and using emergency powers not to restore democratic normality but to bypass normal channels of democratic accountability. When examining emergency legislation, therefore, one is required to contextualise any assessment in light of the broader realities and tensions faced, accepting as part of this analysis the need for flexibility on the part of the state to respond to the unfolding events. At the same time, it is also necessary and expedient to consider the potential ramifications of any necessary restrictions on the enjoyment of rights at a later stage. Sunset clauses, in theory, exist to bridge this chasm between immediate requirements and future fall outs, ameliorating, in turn, the tension of ‘tragic dimensions’ between democratic values and responses to emergencies.

    The Use of Sunset Clauses in Emergency Legislation

    Sunset clauses or provisions are dispositions that determine the expiry of a law or regulation within a predetermined period. Through their use, an act or provision automatically ceases in its effect after a certain time. For instance, in the UK, The Terrorist Asset-Freezing (Temporary Provisions) Act 2010 stipulates that its provisions have effect for the period beginning when this Act comes into force and ending with 31 December 2010. Sunset clauses can also make provision for future debate in order to limit the potentially deleterious and undemocratic nature of legislation that is ‘fast-tracked’. Thus, sunset clauses can require either that parliament renew a piece of legislation or replace it with a further piece of legislation subject to the normal legislative process. Indeterminate provisions such as these blur the lines between sunset clauses and post-legislative scrutiny.

    Various emergency provisions adopted in response to Covid-19 have included variations or combinations of sunset clauses. In the UK, for instance, section 89 of the Coronavirus Act provides that the majority of the provisions will expire after two years. However, this period may be extended by six months or shortened in accordance with section 90. The Government also accepted an amendment, which introduced the requirement that the operation of the Act must be reviewed by Parliament every six months (see section 98). In Ireland, the powers under The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 will cease to have effect after the 9th day of November 2020, unless a resolution is passed by both houses of the Oireachtas (parliament) to approve the continuation of the measures. In Scotland, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act includes a “sunset clause”, according to which most of it will automatically expire six months after it comes into force. MSPs will be able to vote to extend this for another six months if necessary, and then for another six months after that, but this is the absolute limit – so the measures in the Act have a maximum duration of 18 months. In France, the emergency lasts for two months from the day of its adoption, although it can be extended by lawmakers.

    Sunset clauses when included in emergency legislation can be seen as a mechanism by which democracies devise ways to accommodate governmental powers within a pre-established legal framework, rather than leave it to governments to use raw power and untrammelled discretion to deal with emergencies in an unregulated way.

    The Limitations of Sunset Clauses

    Nevertheless, while history teaches us to approach emergency laws with a degree of scepticism, it is equally necessary to adopt a cautious approach to sunset clauses. The addition of sunset clauses notwithstanding, pieces of emergency legislation can remain in force long after the proposed sunset. In the US, for instance, the 2001 Patriot Act adopted in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, included sixteen sections originally meant to sunset on December 31, 2005. The Act was however reauthorised several times in the following years following very limited evaluation. When sunset clauses provide for further debate, the efficacy of the review process is of central importance. However, the mere provision of future scrutiny is no guarantee for the effectiveness of that process. For instance, the Counter-Terrorism Review Project highlights that in the 2003 debate in the House of Lords on whether to renew the Part 4 powers of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 – the controversial measures which allowed for the indefinite detention of non-national terrorist suspects – just four Lords spoke. This included the Minister who had introduced the renewal order. Only 13 MPs attended the first debate in 2006 on whether to renew the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 – the legislation which established the control order regime. In addition, the time allotted for debates on sunset clauses is also very short, often limited by parliamentary procedure to only an hour and a half. This has not always been a problem for Parliament. The House of Commons Third Delegated Legislation Committee, which was entrusted to consider whether the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 should be renewed for a further five years, debated the measures for just 32 minutes (see here for discussion). In addition, there are questions regarding the most effective form of review. If parliamentary post-legislative review is the chosen approach, there may be problems associated with politicisation of the legislation in question. Should, then, the review be undertaken by an independent expert, Committees of the House of Commons or Lords, or independent group? If so, how democratic is this process?

    Similarly, there are questions around the necessary period of time between adoption and review and between different review processes. Although the UK’s Coronavirus Act allows for review after a period of 6 months, this may still be too infrequent. During the House of Lords review of Fast Track Legislation in 2009, for instance, The Better Government Initiative argued that “post-legislative scrutiny is all the more necessary” in cases of fast-track legislation, and that “it should perhaps be more frequent.” Such is the nature of the pandemic and such is the extent and wide-ranging nature of powers afforded under the Coronavirus Act (and similar pieces of legislation adopted globally), that more review processes might be required. But how might this be achieved in light of social distancing? Of course, many of these are issues that arise in the context of any review process, but they nevertheless demonstrate that there are a range of considerations to flow from sunset clauses, which require ongoing scrutiny themselves. In short, sunset clauses, in whatever form, are important but should also be approached with a degree of caution.

    Conclusion

    Sunset clauses will continue to be included in emergency legislation adopted in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. They are unquestionably a useful mechanism by which to ensure that emergency provisions do not normalise, thereby entrenching powers that can adversely affect the enjoyment of individual rights and freedoms. At times, they merge with post-legislative scrutiny, conditioning the continuation of legislation on the basis of ongoing and periodic review processes.  They can, as noted, ease the tension of ‘tragic dimensions’ between democratic values and responses to emergencies. However, there are limitations associated with sunset clauses. They can exist on paper but have little impact in practice. They can be renewed on an ongoing basis, often with little or insufficient scrutiny. Thus, adherence to sunset clauses must itself be scrutinised. On the whole, emergency legislation adopted in response to Covid-19, will require, as Stephen Tierney and Jeff King note, not only sunset clauses, but also ‘robust parliamentary scrutiny of the powers, and adequate provision for administrative and judicial oversight are imperative for the granting of such significant powers to ministers.’ To this one might also add the important role that the media, civil society, international community and human rights monitoring mechanisms will play in assessing the use of powers granted under emergency legislation.

    Dr Sean Molloy, Research Associate, Newcastle University Law School

    (Suggested citation: S. Molloy, ‘Covid-19, Emergency Legislation and Sunset Clauses’, U.K. Const. L. Blog (8th April 2020) (available at https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/))

  • Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905) and Lochner v. New York (1905) in April 2020
    08 April 2020

    Two prominent decisions in the past week turned on Supreme Court jurisprudence from 1905: Jacobson v. Massachusetts and Lochner v. New York.

    Regina Metropolitan Co. v. New York State Division of Housing & Community Renewal

    First, the New York Court of Appeals decided Regina Metropolitan Co. v. New York State Division of Housing & Community Renewal. This case declared unconstitutional the state's new rent control law. Specifically, New York's highest court found that parts of the statute applied retroactively, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    In dissent, Justice Wilson compared the majority opinion to Lochner. He charged that "the disgraced era of Lochner makes its tragic return home." Of course, Lochner had nothing to do with retroactive laws. Lochner is merely a stand-in for any ruling that provides substantive protection for property rights. Justice Wilson admits as much: "This is Lochner redux: a grotesque usurpation of the legislature's role in determining economic regulation when no fundamental rights are at issue." He adds, "Our Frankensteinian role in resurrecting Lochner by assembling ill-fitting fragments of moribund doctrines frightens me, because it portends ill for the future." (This ghoulish rhetoric reminds me of Stambovksy v. Ackley, another prominent New York property case.)

    The majority opinion, per curiam, disclaims any reliance on Lochner: "We agree wholeheartedly with the dissent that legislative judgments are presumptively constitutional and are subject to a rational basis analysis in which the policy preferences of judges have no role." This analysis also has nothing to do with Lochner. The "rational basis test" is a relatively modern innovation. That phrase appeared nowhere in the decisions by Justices Peckham, Harlan, or Holmes.

    Rather, the concept of the "rational basis test" emerged in the wake of the New Deal, and Footnote Four of Carolene Products. The Court divided rights into two general categories: fundamental rights and non-fundamental rights. Laws that burdened the former were reviewed with heightened, or strict scrutiny. And laws that burdened the latter were reviewed with lax, or rational basis scrutiny. (People often say that "fundamental rights are reviewed with strict scrutiny." This usage is common, but wrong. The law is reviewed with strict scrutiny, not the right itself.)

    It is anachronistic to retroactively graft modern Supreme Court jurisprudence onto old cases. Let's consider Lochner. Justice Peckham twice suggested that the Bakeshop Act was enacted for "other motives." In other words, the Bakeshop Act was class legislation aimed at helping unions, and harming non-unionized bakeshops and their employees. Today, this sort of analysis would be grounded in the Equal Protection Clause. But the Lochner majority held the law violated the Due Process Clause: Lochner was being deprived of his liberty interested on arbitrary basis: helping some groups, while hurting others.

    In re Abbott

    The second throwback citation of the week came in In re Abbott. A divided Fifth Circuit panel granted mandamus, and allowed a prohibition on abortions to go into effect during the declared "state of disaster." Abbott turned almost entirely on Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905). Jacobson was decided two months before Lochner. While Lochner was a 5-4 decision, Jacobson was unanimous. Justice Harlan, who wrote the principle dissent in Lochner, wrote the majority in Jacobson.

    There are many parallels between the two case.  Both cases involved assertions of rights protected by the Due Process Clause. Lochner involved a right of property, as well as a liberty of contract. Jacobson involved a different liberty: the right to be free from physical restraint. That is, the state sought to punish Jacobson for not receiving a vaccination. The case did not impose a vaccine mandate; people who declined the vaccine were forced to pay a $5 criminal penalty. (This model, more or less, is how Chief Justice Roberts rewrote the ACA individual mandate: you don't have to buy an insurance; merely pay a penalty-tax for going uninsured.)

    Both Lochner and Jacobson also discussed the state's police power. In Jacobson, the Court unanimously held that the state's police power trumped Jacobson's claim to individual liberty, which was protected by the Due Process Clause. The Lochner majority held that the state did not adduce enough evidence to support the police power law. The principal dissent, by Justice Harlan, found that the state did offer enough evidence to support the law. Justice Holmes, who dissented alone, was not concerned with the evidence provided; he would have simply deferred to the state.

    But the similarities do run out. Under modern law, Lochner is considered part of the so-called anti-canon. But Williamson is good law. Indeed, that precedent has featured in two prominent Supreme Court decision. First, Justice Holmes's decision in Buck v. Bell (1925) relied on Jacobson. This case upheld the state's power to forcibly sterilized so-called "imbeciles." Holmes analogized government-compelled sterilization to government-compelled vaccination. Holmes concluded that "the principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes."

    Second, Justice Blackmun's decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) relied on Jacobson. Blackmun rejected the argument that "one has an unlimited right to do with one's body as one pleases." Blackmun explained that "[t]he Court has refused to recognize an unlimited right of this kind in the past." And he cites Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905) (vaccination) and Buck v. Bell (1927) (sterilization)." Most constitutional law casebooks exclude this passage. Our casebook includes it.

    Blackmun's opinion injects both Jacobson and Buck into the Supreme Court's modern substantive due process framework. This analysis is very anomalous. Buck held that the state can sterilize a woman on the flimsiest rationales. But Roe held that the Constitution limits the states power to prohibit abortion. How to reconcile these precedents? I've always read this passage to suggest that Jacobson and Buck serve as limits to the substantive due process right to abortion. That is, the Fourteenth Amendment protects a specific right, but if the state's interest is significant enough, that right can be restricted. And what are examples of state interests that could constrain that right? To prevent an outbreak of a disease (Jacobson), and to prevent "imbeciles" from reproducing (Buck).

    The plurality opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey also cited Jacobson. The plurality reaffirmed "Roe's view that a State's interest in the protection of life falls short of justifying any plenary override of individual liberty claims." Once again, I read Jacobson as a limitation on the substantive due process right at issue.

    Back to Abbott. Judge Dennis's dissent committed the sin of modernity. He read, and misread language in Jacobson, in light of contemporary rights jurisprudence. Judge Dennis reduces Jacobson to something of a three-factor balancing test.

    The Court explained, however, that individual rights are not gutted during a crisis: Courts have a duty to review a state's exercise of their police power where the state's action (1) goes "beyond the necessity of the case, and, under the guise of exerting a police power . . . violate[s] rights secured by the Constitution," (2) "has no real or substantial relation to" "protect[ing] the public health, the public morals, or the public safety," or (3) "is, beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law." Id. at 28, 30. Jacobson, then, stands for the proposition that a state by its legislature may utilize its police power to enact laws to protect the public health and safety, even though such laws may impose restraints on citizens' liberties, so long as that regulation is "justified by the necessities of the case" and does not violate rights secured by the Constitution "under the guise of exerting a police power." Id. at 28-29.

    I am truly flummoxed by this analysis. The three factors are carved up from three pages of Harlan's opinions (pp. 28-30). Let's take them one at a time.

    The first factor asks whether a "state's action (1) goes "beyond the necessity of the case, and, under the guise of exerting a police power . . . violate[s] rights secured by the Constitution." The ellipses are extremely misleading. Judge Dennis excluded an important element. Here is the full sentence from Justice Harlan's decision. I've emphasized the omitted text:

    "In Railroad Company v. Husen, 95 U. S. 465, 95 U. S. 471-473, this court recognized the right of a State to pass sanitary laws, laws for the protection of life, liberty, heath or property within its limits, laws to prevent persons and animals suffering under contagious or infectious diseases, or convicts, from coming within its borders. But as the laws [in Husen] involved went beyond the necessity of the case and under the guise of exerting a police power invaded the domain of Federal authority, and violated rights secured by the Constitution, this court deemed it to be its duty to hold such laws invalid."

    In Railroad Company v. Husen (1877), Missouri prohibited the importation of out-of-state cattle from March to November. The state defended the measure as a quarantine law to prevent the spread of "Spanish or Texas fever." The Supreme Court disagreed, and found that this law violated the Commerce Clause issue. The "rights" Justice Harlan referenced  are the rights of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce! Collective rights of the central government. Husen did not involve individual "rights secured by the Constitution," such as the freedom of speech, or a judicially-enforced right to abortion. Far from it. Judge Dennis erred on this first factor. He used ellipses in a misleading way to cast a century-old precedent in a modernistic light. The crux of the analysis is that Missouri "invaded the domain of Federal authority."

    Later, Judge Dennis offers this synthesis of Jacobson:

    Jacobson, then, stands for the proposition that a state by its legislature may utilize its police power to enact laws to protect the public health and safety, even though such laws may impose restraints on citizens' liberties, so long as that regulation is "justified by the necessities of the case" and does not violate rights secured by the Constitution "under the guise of exerting a police power."

    That statement is not accurate. Husen did not involve any "restraints on citizens' liberties." The case involved a purported quarantine measure that actually violated the Commerce Clause. In other words, Missouri was acting "under the guise of exerting a police power," but instead "invaded the domain of Federal authority." On p. 41, Judge Dennis repeats the citation to Husen, and writes, "the Court clearly anticipated that courts would exercise judicial oversight over a state's decision to restrict personal liberties during emergencies." The case had nothing to do with liberties.

    What about the other two factors? Judge Dennis wrote:

    (2) "has no real or substantial relation to" "protect[ing] the public health, the public morals, or the public safety," or (3) "is, beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law."

    These two factors come from Justice Harlan's quotation from Mugler v. Kansas (1887). Here is the full passage:

    Upon what sound principles as to the relations existing between the different departments of government can the court review this action of the legislature? If there is any such power in the judiciary to review legislative action in respect of a matter affecting the general welfare, it can only be when that which the legislature has done comes within the rule that,

    "if a statute purporting to have been enacted to protect the public health, the public morals, or the public safety has no real or substantial relation to those objects, or is, beyond all question, a plain, palpable invasion of rights secured by the fundamental law, it is the duty of the courts to so adjudge, and thereby give effect to the Constitution." Mugler v. Kansas, 123 U. S. 623

    Harlan wrote Mugler as well. This case actually discussed individual constitutional rights. But I think it is a mistake of modernism to equate the word "rights" in 2020 with the word "rights" in 1887. Here is how Harlan describes the nature of rights, with a very Vermuelian reference to "common good."

    Nor can it be said that Government interferes with or impairs Page 123 U. S. 663 anyone's constitutional rights of liberty or of property when it determines that the manufacture and sale of intoxicating drinks for general or individual use as a beverage are or may become hurtful to society, and constitute, therefore, a business in which no one may lawfully engage. Those rights are best secured in our Government by the observance upon the part of all of such regulations as are established by competent authority to promote the common good. No one may rightfully do that which the lawmaking power, upon reasonable grounds, declares to be prejudicial to the general welfare.

    Mugler is not a good hook to hang Abbott on. Indeed, this era was not particularly protective of even enumerated rights. Lest we forget the trio from 1919 of Schenck, Debs, and Abrams. These cases upheld explicit prior restraints of speech during the midst of World War I.

    Courts should not look to cases from the Progressive Era to bolster contemporary notions of substantive due process. It is a mistake to cherry pick words from a century old opinion, and graft those words onto modern rights jurisprudence. Jacobson can be read to limit cases like Roe. Jacobson cannot be read to provide additional protections for a right to abortion.

    Judge Duncan's majority opinion, which was joined by Judge Elrod, accurately states the relationship between Jacobson and Roe:

    The district court, however, failed to recognize Jacobson's long-established framework. While acknowledging that "Texas faces it[s] worst public health emergency in over a century," the court treated that fact as entirely irrelevant. Indeed, the court explicitly refused to consider how the Supreme Court's abortion cases apply to generally-applicable emergency health measures, saying it would "not speculate on whether the Supreme Court included a silent 'except-in-a-national-emergency clause' in its previous writings on the issue." App. 268.

    That analysis is backwards: Jacobson instructs that all constitutional rights may be reasonably restricted to combat a public health emergency. We could avoid applying Jacobson here only if the Supreme Court had specifically exempted abortion rights from its general rule. It has never done so. To the contrary, the Court has repeatedly cited Jacobson in abortion cases without once suggesting that abortion is the only right exempt from limitation during a public health emergency.

    Free advice to the lawyers writing briefs in support of petitioners: DO NOT CITE JUDGE DENNIS'S ANALYSIS OF JACOBSON.

  • Our experts can work with you remotely now to make sure compliance deadlines are met.
    08 April 2020
    While you concentrate on helping your clients and staff during the current pandemic, let us take away the pressure of worrying about what is not getting done. Working remotely, we can support you now in key areas of your compliance. 

    In these difficult times, it’s right that you concentrate on maintaining services for your clients and looking after the welfare of your staff but the need to run a compliant business cannot be forgotten. A lot of the detailed work you have on your to-do list around the new SRA regulations, changes in the anti money laundering regulations, essential policies and procedures, preparing for the next Lexcel audit and more have probably been put on the back burner for now.    

    We can help you with these now, working remotely on all these areas so that when life returns to normal (and it will) you are not left way behind and chasing to catch up. 



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