199476 Preparing for Threats of Legal Challenges to Public Health Laws

Monday, November 9, 2009: 10:30 AM

Christopher N. Banthin, JD , Public Health Advocacy Institute, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA
Cara Wilking, JD , Public Health Advocacy Institute, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA
A threat of a legal challenge against a proposed public health law can sap resources and political will. The mere act of making such a threat has become a powerful tool for opponents. The Public Health Advocacy Institute has undertaken extensive research into the nature of these threats and their effect on public health practitioners. Researchers use case study methodology to tell the stories of twelve threats of legal challenges across a broad range of public health. Each case study represents the culmination of extensive research and in-depth interviews with key players. The goal of the study is to enhance capacity for public health law development by capturing the experience of practitioners who have navigated real world legal challenges to public health legislation and regulation.

Case studies include the legal challenge to New York City's Menu-Labeling Law, an Iowa county board of public health's attempt to regulate air water contamination from concentrated animal feeding operations, and the State of California's attempt to regulate auto emissions.

Key Points

Legal rhetoric and tactics have been used to thwart or delay implementation of public health laws.

Advocates and public health practitioners should prepare for threats of legal challenges by understanding how opponents make such threats.

Advocates must work to ensure that efforts to minimize the likelihood of litigation does not compromise the public health goal, and that legal risk assessments incorporate a comprehensive and accurate assessment the public health benefit.

Learning Objectives:
Explain the manner in which threats of litigation are used by opponents and incorporate this knowledge in planning for legislative initiatives. Describe how to help educate lawyers and/or legal staff to prepare for a legal challenge. Describe the source, timing and method by which the legal challenges are conveyed using case study format.

Keywords: Health Law, Legislative

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Have JD degree. Received funding from RWJF, as PI, to research public health legal policy. Published and presented on numerous legal policy issues.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.