James G. Hodge, Jr., JD, LLM, is the Lincoln Professor of Health Law and Ethics at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, and a Fellow, Center for Law, Science, and Innovation, at Arizona State University , Tempe. He is also Director, Network for Public Health Law, Western Region Ofiice.
The decade following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and ensuing anthrax exposures that same fall has seen significant legal reforms designed to improve biopreparedness nationally. Over the past 10 years, a transformative series oflegal changes have effectively (1) rebuilt components of federal, state, and local governments to improve response efforts; (2) created an entire new legal classification known as "public health emergencies"; and (3) overhauled existing legal norms defining the roles and responsibilities of public and private actors in emergency response efforts. The back story as to how law plays an essential role in facilitating biopreparedness, however, is pocked with controversies and conflicts between law- and policymakers, public health officials, emergency managers, civil libertarians, scholars, and others. Significant legalchallenges for the next decade remain. Issues related to interjurisdictional coordination; duplicative legal declarations of emergency, disaster, and public health emergency; real-time legal decision making; and liability protections for emergency responders and entities remain unresolved. This article explores the evolving tale underlying the rise and prominence of law as a pivotal tool in national biopreparedness and response efforts in the interests of preventing excess morbidity and mortality during public health emergencies.