Monday, March 23, 2020


Department of Justice asks to keep suspects behind bars indefinitely WITHOUT trial under 'terrifying' emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic

By Hannah Skellern

Daily Mail
March 22, 2020

Chief judges could detain suspects indefinitely without putting them on trial in a push for emergency powers as the coronavirus continues to spread through the US.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked Congress to grant use of the controversial powers during emergencies like the current pandemic – in a move that critics condemned as ‘terrifying’ and an infringement on people’s constitutional rights.

The department, led by Attorney General William Barr, asked lawmakers to allow chief district court judges to pause court proceedings if the court is closed because of ‘any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation,’ documents obtained by POLITICO reveal.

Fears have been raised that the Trump administration is using the outbreak of the deadly virus to bring about policy changes sought by Republicans such as clamping down on asylum seekers, strengthening border restrictions and cutting taxes.

The move by the Department of Justice, led by Attorney General William Barr, has been condemned by civil liberties advocates as ‘terrifying’ and an infringement on people’s constitutional rights
President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on March 13 to fight the coronavirus crisis.

The amount of cases in the US soared above 26,000 on Sunday.

Civil liberties advocates have condemned the move by the DOJ – which would be unlikely to be approved by the House of Representative where the Democrats hold the majority – as a breach of constitutional rights.

The right to seek release from a judge is known as habeas corpus.

The request for the power to apply ‘pre-arrest’ was criticized by Norman L. Reimer, the executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

‘That means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over,’ he said.

More than 26,000 people have tested positive to Covid-19 in the United States, and 346 people have died

‘I find it absolutely terrifying. Especially in a time of emergency, we should be very careful about granting new powers to the government.’

‘That is something that should not happen in a democracy.’

The DOJ also asked Congress to pause the statute of limitations in national emergencies and for a year after.

It requested that video conference hearings take place without defendants’ consent, according to the documents.

‘If it were with the consent of the accused person it would be fine,’ Reimer said.

‘But if it’s not with the consent of the accused person, it’s a terrible road to go down. We have a right to public trials. People have a right to be present in court.’

Lawmakers were also asked to ban people with coronavirus from applying for asylum.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The DOJ request, if enacted, could allow persons arrested for being drunk in public or for failing to pay a fine to be kept jailed indefinitely.


Trey Rusk said...

The Patriot Act was just as "Terrifying." Most of it still applies.

bob walsh said...

I am inclined to agree. This is a very dubious proposal.