Daily Office: Matins
In Case of End Times
Tuesday, 15 February 2011

We can’t think what the Times is up to, publishing William Glaberson’s “A Legal Manual for an Apocalpytic New York.” It’s not that readers ought to be protected from awareness of such dismal reckonings. But if we’re going to be told how the courts are preparing to deal with quarantines and evacuations and worse, let’s hear the news in a more interactive forum. or at least in a context that encourages reflection and preparation instead of panic.

Perhaps the point of the story is to show that the courts don’t really know what they’re doing.

But the guide also presents a sober rendition of what the realities might be in dire times. The suspension of laws, it says, is subject to constitutional rights. But then it adds, “This should not prove to be an obstacle, because federal and state constitutional restraints permit expeditious actions in emergency situations.”

When there is not enough medicine for everyone in an emergency, it notes, there is no clear legal guidepost. It suggests legal decisions would most likely involve an analysis that “balances the obligation to save the greatest number of lives against the obligation to care for each single patient,” perhaps giving preference to those with the best chance to survive. It points out, though, that elderly and disabled people might have a legal claim if they are discriminated against at such moments of crisis.

That is almost the opposite of news. On a “news you can use” scale, this report rates a 0.5.