US Department of Justice seeks new powers during COVID-19 outbreak
US Department of Justice seeks new powers during COVID-19 outbreak

The Department of Justice (DOJ) asked Congress to grant the US Attorney General emergency powers to ask federal judges to pause court proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic according to a POLITICO report Saturday.

Federal judges already have the power to pause court proceedings in their individual courts during emergencies. However, the DOJ contends that this proposal would make the pause consistent throughout the judicial district. The proposal would allow the Attorney General the same powers during future emergencies.

The propsal presents civil rights concerns as it affects pre-arrest through post-trial procedures. Many critics such as Norman L. Reimer, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers executive director, share concern over the proposal violating Habeas Corpus rights. The proposal could pause arraignment proceedings and calls for possible teleconferencing in place of in-person arraignment.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have additionally criticized the proposal. Republican Senator Mike Lee replied to the proposal with “OVER MY DEAD BODY,” while Senate Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer remarked, “Two words: Hell no.” The proposal shares similar sentiment in the House. House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez commented “Absolutely not.”

The DOJ has yet to respond to the POLTICO report.