Vulnerable Populations in the Context of COVID-19: Foreword to the Arizona State Law Journal Online Symposium

12 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2020 Last revised: 14 Nov 2020

See all articles by Valena Elizabeth Beety

Valena Elizabeth Beety

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Jennifer D. Oliva

Seton Hall University School of Law

Date Written: November 6, 2020


The widespread global transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, has altered, injured, and ended the lives of numerous individuals across various communities and nations. It has been well-documented that certain long-neglected populations are particularly susceptible to COVID-19 severe illness and death and, as a result, have been disparately victimized by the pandemic. This Arizona State Law Journal Online Symposium, Vulnerable Populations in the Context of COVID-19, is a compilation of the work of diverse scholarly voices that aims to raise awareness about—and propose reforms to remedy—the legal and policy challenges that have—and continue to—perpetuate adverse health harms on the most vulnerable in our communities. Symposium contributors include international scholars, medical doctors, clinical law professors litigating on behalf of vulnerable clients, and distinguished senior and junior law professors. This collection of unique scholarly voices is due to outstanding support from the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Sections on Law and Mental Disability, Indian Nations and Indigenous Peoples, Disability Law, and Poverty Law; the Academy for Justice, a criminal justice policy center at Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; and the tireless work of the student editors at the Arizona State Law Journal. We hope this foreword provides an overview that encourages readers to engage with the insightful essays in this online symposium.

The essays in this collection explore the mental health of vulnerable populations by examining pre-existing, population-health harming legal and policy obstacles that the COVID-19 national health crisis has exacerbated. The authors propose solutions to these problems aimed at populations that have been disproportionally affected by the crisis, including, but not limited to, indigenous people; individuals with substance use disorders; racial, ethnic, and gender minorities; individuals with disabilities; individuals who are incarcerated or otherwise institutionalized; elderly individuals; pregnant women; and people who suffer other social and economic barriers, including co-morbid mental health conditions.

The criminal justice essays challenge the loss of rehabilitative programming for juveniles in custody, examine pandemic detention and access to care through a disability law framework, provide a series of arguments against solitary confinement, and propose community treatment for competency restoration. The health law essays describe the deregulation of telehealth and telemedicine during the COVID-19 public health crisis, the impact of the pandemic on elderly patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the dearth of support and services to individuals with developmental disabilities, and propose a framework to ensure treatment for people with substance use disorder. The essays on Tribal communities detail federal Indian law’s long perpetuation of structural violence and trauma in Indian country, explain how the federal government’s failure to abide by its treaty obligations has exacerbated adverse mental health outcomes for Native Americans in the context of the pandemic, and propose solutions to mitigate COVID-19-related mental health harms.

Suggested Citation

Beety, Valena Elizabeth and Oliva, Jennifer, Vulnerable Populations in the Context of COVID-19: Foreword to the Arizona State Law Journal Online Symposium (November 6, 2020). 2 Arizona State Law Journal Online 69 (2020), Available at SSRN:

Valena Elizabeth Beety (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States

Jennifer Oliva

Seton Hall University School of Law ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102
United States


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