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Brooklyn Law School dean’s video series discusses legal impacts of COVID-19 pandemic

August 13, 2020 Rob Abruzzese

While Brooklyn Law School’s campus has been closed since March, the school published a Dean’s Law and Policy video series as a way to connect with students, faculty and alumni while also discussing the legal implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are currently 11 episodes available on the school’s website, in which 11 professors discuss the legal impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on a particular field of law. The videos discuss various topics and attempt to envision what the long-term ramifications will be in 2021 and beyond.

“Obviously we are currently in what is most directly a health crisis, but we [talk] about various kinds of issues that surround all manner of different crises that are related to the health crisis and might be adjacent to it,” said BLS Dean Michael Cahill. “[We discuss] how times of crisis give rise to legal issues, sometimes expose flaws or pressure points in the laws that might exist and possibly create opportunities for legal avenues to remedy the problems that we face.”

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The videos are moderated by Cahill and are each about 12 to 15 minutes long. They feature professors Robin Effron; David Reiss; Karen Porter; Jodi Balsam; Susan Herman, president of the ACLU; Heidi Brown; Frank Pasquale; Jocelyn Simonson; Steven Dean; Miriam Baer and Cynthia Godsoe.

The first video in the series features a discussion of confession of judgment clauses with Prof. Robin Effron.

In the first video in the series, Dean Cahill sits down with Prof. Robin Effron, and the two talk about “confession of judgment clauses” in commercial contracts.

Effron explains that these clauses allow judgments against businesses in default of a contract without notifying the defendant in the judgment. As Cahill put it, the borrower signs away some of their rights away in these contracts, and Effron explained that they are illegal in all 50 states in non-commercial transactions.

“Everybody is worried about small businesses being impacted and shutting down and being unable to meet their obligations,” Prof. Effron said. “My worry is that in so-called normal times you always have that run of small businesses that are unable to meet their obligations, have their assets seized and are victims of these confession of judgement clauses. The worry is now that it’s not just some businesses, but it’s so many more that it will reveal just how many businesses have these clauses in their contracts.”

With 11 episodes already published, BLS plans on exploring more areas of the law and how they will be impacted by COVID-19. Issues will include real estate, law student and lawyer mental wellness, the criminal justice system, sports and more.

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“This was a fitting way to kick off the series about law in time of crisis by pointing to an issue that was always there and always significant, but certainly would be spotlighted more in the particular context we find ourselves in where perhaps more people will be in the situation of defaulting on their loans and having these clauses take effect and feeling their impact in a way we might not have noticed before,” Dean Cahill said of Prof. Effron’s discussion of confession of judgement clauses.


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