Delving Into International Law in a Time of Pandemic
On Thursday, June 18, 2020, more than 140 attendees gathered over livestream for the webinar, “Who is Going to Pay for It? The Pandemic Indemnity Claims Under International and U.S. Law.” Chang Wang and Alexander Morawa, both experienced lawyers and senior partners at Kingsfield Law Office, explored questions around possible liability or legal consequences under public international law and U.S. law for the pandemic-related action or inaction of states.
In recent months, some U.S. and European government officials have expressed the desire to seek damages from China, where the coronavirus outbreak presumably originated. Wang and Morawa outlined the claims of lawsuits filed by the states of Missouri and Mississippi, in addition to class-action lawsuits filed by small business owners in Nevada. Next, they provided background on the existing mechanisms for resolving international legal disputes between states, including the possible involvement of international bodies such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. The speakers also pointed out that some commentators believe the current lawsuits are linked with domestic politics, as the mainstream media has reported a campaign strategy memo suggesting “Don’t defend the President, attack China."
Wang and Morawa answered questions from attendees in the Q & A session that followed. The discussion touched on the differences between domestic and international law, whether a “clean hands” theory would apply under international law, and the potential response from the Chinese government.
About the Speakers
Alexander H. E. Morawa, S.J.D. is a senior partner at Kingsfield Law Office. Dr. Morawa combines international and transnational legal scholarship and practice in a career that spans multiple continents. A dual citizen of the U.S.A. and Austria, he holds a faculty appointment at American University Washington College of Law, Washington, DC, and has recently taught at Mackenzie Presbyterian University School of Law, São Paulo, Brazil and China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL), Beijing, China. His work in practice includes the representation of petitioners in various international courts and tribunals established by the United Nations and the Council of Europe. Dr. Morawa received his S.J.D. and LL.M., summa cum laude, from George Washington University School of Law, and his Magister iuris from the University of Salzburg in Austria. Dr. Morawa has published 11 books and more than 100 academic papers on public international law.
Chang Wang is a senior partner with Kingsfield Law Office, where he specializes in immigration law, art law, and foreign investments. Wang is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School and is licensed to practice law in Minnesota, New York, the District of Columbia, and federal courts. Wang is an elected member of the prestigious American Law Institute. In 2018, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea of the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed Wang as a member of the Minnesota State Board of Continuing Legal Education. In 2020, Governor Tim Walz appointed Wang as the member representing Chinese Minnesotans on Council on Asian and Pacific Minnesotans. Wang holds associate, visiting, and adjunct professorships at law schools in the U.S., China, Austria, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, and Brazil. Wang has published six books and many essays and academic papers on comparative law.