CCL President Robert S. Peck spoke about trends and issues in personal jurisdiction, COVID-19 litigation and effects on the courts and jury system, and qualified immunity in a wide-ranging panel discussion, sponsored by the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School. The panel was part of a month-long virtual conference for judges, academics, and lawyers.

     Peck was part of a panel moderated by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Pitlyk of the Eastern District of Missouri. Also on the panel were Kalpana Srinivasan, managing partner of Susman Godfrey in Los Angeles and John Beisner of Skadden Arps in Washington, DC. 

     Peck suggested that the justices themselves expressed some dissatisfaction with the direction recent personal jurisdiction cases had taken and had overstated some of the primary considerations when they heard the Ford cases that came from Montana and Minnesota in October. He also suggested that their attempt to carve federal cases out of the strict approach taken in state cases are likely to come home to roost soon, forcing them to confront different aspects of the latter's strictness.

    On COVID-19 proposals for immunity, Peck explained why tort law incorporates a type of flexibility that acknowledges unusual situations and adjusts to a sensible standard of care so that businesses and others who do not take precautions are properly held liable, while those that do will rarely be subject to suit. For that reason, immunity proposals are ill-considered because they fundamentally excuse irresponsible behavior. Peck also suggested that the technological innovations that have expanded access to the courts during the pandemic are probably here to stay, but expressed concern that we are losing familiarity with and support for jury trials, which remain essential to our civil justice system.

    Finally, Peck thought that recent developments had exposed problems with the judge-made doctrine of qualified immunity that immunizes government officials from civil rights liability when the right was not "clearly established" has begun to show enough problems that changes to the doctrine cannot be far off.