Indiana Supreme Court
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Indianapolis, IN 46204

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Judicial Administration > Public Health Law Benchbook for Indiana Courts Public Health Law Benchbook for Indiana Courts

The Public Health Law Bench Book for Indiana Courts is a publication from the Center for Public Health Law Partnerships at the University of Louisville.

Excerpt from the Preface

In 1905, the United States Supreme Court’s landmark Jacobson v. Massachusetts ruling recognized the judiciary as both an enforcer of governmental public health policies and an arbiter of the conflicts between individual liberties and public interests that arise from governmental public health action. See generally Wendy E. Parmet et al. “Individual Rights versus the Public’s Health – 100 Years after Jacobson v. Massachusetts.” 352 NEW ENG. J. MED. 652 (2005). Despite this central role, most members of the judiciary have received little, if any, formal public health law training.


The Bench Book is intended to protect the health and safety of communities by improving legal preparedness for both public health emergencies and more routine public health cases. In addition, it is our hope that this Bench Book will increase communication between the judiciary and public health agencies at the community, state, and national levels and across a broad spectrum of public health issues. Although courts have historically been vital protectors of the public's health (e.g., authorizing sanitary inspections, enjoining nuisances, enforcing vaccination requirements), relationships between public health agencies and the judiciary remain rare. In this new era of bioterrorism, emerging infectious diseases, and potential pandemics, courts play an even more critical role in protecting the public’s health. This Bench Book is a reference tool that judges may use as they confront the range of public health issues that come to their courtrooms.