Would You Let This Man Suspend Habeas Corpus?
Habeas corpus allows people who have been detained to appear before a judge and request release. Due process requires the government to respect all manner of legal rights that are owed to a person. And Bill Barr wants to get rid of them.
In a move that surprised absolutely no one, Reichsminister Barr has decided to use the deadly COVID-19 pandemic to try to suspend the Constitution and give himself extrajudicial powers.
As reported by Politico, last week the Department of Justice quietly asked Congress to declare that the Constitution doesn't really exist during the coronavirus pandemic. Because why not detain people indefinitely, deny trials, and suspend due process and habeas corpus?! We don't need no stinking Constitution!
Among the things Herr Barr asked for were:
- Suspending due process and habeas corpus;
- Indefinitely suspending statutes of limitations;
- Changing the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure; and
- Upending asylum laws.
The Trump regime has already used the pandemic as an excuse to restrict asylum claims and increase restrictions at the border. Now, they're using it as an excuse for a blind power grab.
While Trump is prattling on about how we should just let people die if it'll help the stock market, Barr is using the pandemic to try to get the power to indefinitely hold legally innocent Americans without trial, in violation of the rights to due process and habeas corpus.
In one of the documents, the department proposed that Congress grant the attorney general power to ask the chief judge of any district court to pause court proceedings "whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation."
While this language may sound innocuous, it's not. The result would be people who have not been convicted of any crime — and are thus legally innocent — being held in jail, indefinitely, without trial. During a time when we are going to see mass illness and death in our correctional institutions.
And Barr's request doesn't stop there.
The proposal would also grant those top judges broad authority to pause court proceedings during emergencies. It would apply to "any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings," according to draft legislative language the department shared with Congress.
Kindly note the part where Barr is asking for the ability to not only fuck with people who have already been arrested and charged, but also wants to fuck with people's "pre-arrest." Not great, Bob.
And that's not all!
The department also asked Congress to pause the statute of limitations for criminal investigations and civil proceedings during national emergencies, "and for one year following the end of the national emergency," according to the draft legislative text.
Let's give Bill Barr the ability to suspend the Constitution not only during this pandemic but also for a full year after it has ended. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!
But wait, there's more!
Barr also asked Congress to change the Federal Rules of Criminal procedure to allow videoconference hearings to happen without the consent of criminal defendants.
"Video teleconferencing may be used to conduct an appearance under this rule," read a draft of potential new language for Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5(f), crossing out the phrase "if the defendant consents."
"Video teleconferencing may be used to arraign a defendant," read draft text of rule 10(c), again striking out the phrase "if the defendant consents."
Videoconferencing should be used during times like these, but allowing hearings to happen without the consent of criminal defendants is not okay.
Civil liberties and constitutional law experts are rightly horrified by these proposals.
"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."
I think we can all agree that the absolute last thing America needs right now is for William Barr to be able to operate outside of the bounds of the Constitution
[ Politico ]