Disastrous Disasters: Restoring Civil Rights Protections for Victims of the State in Natural Disasters

Journal of Health and Biomedical Law, Vol. 2, 2006

U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-21

37 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2007

Abstract

This article traces examples of state, local and federal governmental responses to natural disasters over the past 100 years in American history. From the prejudice and violence perpetuated against Chinese-Americans after the great 1906 Earthquake hit San Francisco, to the disparate treatment of poor, minority victims of Hurricane Katrina, I conclude that the American government has persistently and consistently responded to natural emergencies with racial and socio-economic bias. These responses, I argue, constitute governmental sponsored discrimination. Moreover, they greatly exacerbate the already vast public health disparities that already divide our nation. The thesis of this article is that the American government, at local, state and federal levels, must be held accountable for the direct and primary role played in causing the racially and economically disparate disasters that preceded and followed Hurricane Katrina. The article proposes to use Civil False Claims Act as a tool to address this discriminatory behavior, and thus is distinguishable from my earlier work arguing to limit application of this statute. However, the article notes the nearly fatal blows the United States Supreme Court has delivered to the Civil Rights statutes that might have been useful in addressing the public health disparities that are created after natural disasters, and concludes that this and other factors make the False Claims Act the current weapon of choice to combat public health disparities that arise from discriminatory governmental conduct after natural disasters.

Keywords: public health, disparities, false claims act

JEL Classification: I38, J71, K20

Suggested Citation

Matthew, Dayna Bowen, Disastrous Disasters: Restoring Civil Rights Protections for Victims of the State in Natural Disasters. Journal of Health and Biomedical Law, Vol. 2, 2006; U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-21. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1005211

Dayna Bowen Matthew (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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