The Emergency Next Time

50 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2021 Last revised: 2 Mar 2022

See all articles by Noa Ben-Asher

Noa Ben-Asher

St. John's University - School of Law

Date Written: March 19, 2021


This Article offers a new conceptual framework to understand the connection between law and violence in national emergencies. It is by now well-established that governments often commit state violence in times of national security crisis by implementing excessive emergency measures. The Article calls this type of legal violence “Emergency-Affirming Violence.” But Emergency Violence can also be committed through governmental non-action. This type of violence, which this Article calls, “Emergency-Denying Violence,” has come to stark light in the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Article offers a new taxonomy to better understand the phenomenon of Emergency Violence. Using 9/11 and COVID-19 as examples, the Article proposes that there are two types of Emergency Violence: Emergency-Affirming Violence and Emergency-Denying Violence. Emergency-Affirming Violence occurs when the government (1) declares and emphasizes the magnitude of an emergency; (2) calls for robust deference to experts; and (3) aggressively pursues emergency measures. Emergency-Denying Violence, by contrast, occurs when the government (1) denies or minimizes the existence of an emergency; (2) ignores or undermines experts; and (3) declines to take significant emergency measures. The Article demonstrates how the three branches of government can engage in both types of Emergency Violence.

Analyzing the legal responses to the two national crises of 9/11 and COVID-19 side-by-side, the Article underscores the vulnerable individuals and communities against whom Emergency Violence is unleashed via both Emergency-Affirming and Emergency-Denying Violence. The Article proposes a principle of Emergency Non-Violence to guide public response to the next emergency.

Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus, emergency powers, 9-11, violence, racial injustice, war-on-terror

Suggested Citation

Ben-Asher, Noa, The Emergency Next Time (March 19, 2021). 18 Stan. J. C.R & C.L. 51 (2022), Available at SSRN: or

Noa Ben-Asher (Contact Author)

St. John's University - School of Law ( email )

8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States

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