The Department of Justice is aiming to make things look like the Wild, Wild West. The federal executive department of the government is reportedly pushing for the right to detain people during the current coronavirus epidemic with emergency powers.
According to reports, the DOJ has low-key reached out to Congress with a major request. It wants the ability to ask chief judges to detain people – indefinitely – without trial during this current national emergency.
Documents reviewed by POLITICO detail the department’s requests to lawmakers on a host of topics, including the statute of limitations, asylum and the way court hearings are conducted. POLITICO also reviewed and previously reported on documents seeking the authority to extend deadlines on merger reviews and prosecutions. The move has tapped into a broader fear among civil liberties advocates and Donald Trump’s critics — that the president will use a moment of crisis to push for controversial policy changes. (POLITICO)
To make matters worse, the potential approval could force anyone arrested to remain detained for an unspecified amount. At the very least a person could stay put until the emergency is deemed completed.
The request raised eyebrows because of its potential implications for habeas corpus — the constitutional right to appear before a judge after arrest and seek release. “Not only would it be a violation of that, but it says ‘affecting pre-arrest,’” said Norman L. Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “So that means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over. I find it absolutely terrifying. Especially in a time of emergency, we should be very careful about granting new powers to the government.” (POLITICO)
Wait, There’s More
The controversial DOJ request has already sparked major backlash. Various political figures have come forward to clap back at the emergency powers pitch going through.
Legal experts and politicians on both sides of the aisle quickly condemned the request. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) tweeted “OVER MY DEAD BODY;” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) wrote, “Two Words: Hell No;” and Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted “Absolutely not” — a sentiment Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) chief strategist, Doug Stafford, agreed with. (VOX)
Before You Go
Despite the DOJ request being a long shot, the current coronavirus epidemic has delivered a green light to President Donald Trump‘s administration in other areas. He’s already made federal changes to the United States borders.
The DOJ’s requests would give some federal judges the power to pause various court proceedings during emergencies, including “any statutes otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings,” Politico reported. Hypothetically, such a move could violate defendants’ constitutional rights to appear before a judge. The coronavirus pandemic has already provided fuel for the Trump administration to enact various long-wanted policies, including border- and asylum-related policies, as Politico noted. (Business Insider)