The Legal and Legitimate Combat Against COVID-19: German Curfew-related Case Law
Publication Type:Journal Article
Source:Connections: The Quarterly Journal, Volume 19, Issue 2, p.49-60 (2020)
Keywords:civil rights, COVID-19, governance, lockdown, rule of law
Much has been written about Chinese and Russian attempts to abuse the pandemic to reshape international order in favor of authoritarian regimes. Diplomatic initiatives, staged relief operations, and troll propaganda were rolled out when COVID-19 hit Europe and the USA in early March 2020. These activities meant to insinuate that centralized, illiberal governance models are better prepared to manage the crisis. In contrast, the transatlantic world fights the virus with measures taken in accordance with Rule of Law standards. In a previous paper, the author argued that access to legal remedies makes the difference. In spring and early summer of 2020, courts in Germany decided on a number of cases where claimants challenge lockdown regulations. Some of these decisions deserve a closer look because they deepen the understanding of how constitutional requirements are assessed in lieu of the constraints. The article, therefore, starts with a short summary of the German judicial system to challenge executive decisions. It will then turn to discuss some outstanding court rulings. In the end, the contribution attempts to assess what kind of COVID-19-related case law in Germany emerges. Could the courts balance core constitutional principles, the need to keep a functioning health sector, to allow a number of basic rights untouched, and to prepare a careful economic recovery?