Loss of Democracy

The Justice System Requesting to Remove Habeas Corpus


Julia Alley, Writer

As we have all learned from the past month or so, the best time to make controversial political decisions is in the middle of a global pandemic, and of course, that’s exactly what is happening. In recent events, the Justice Department requested that Congress permit the U.S. attorney general to require courts to postpone all court proceedings during a national emergency. This is concerning for a vast number of reasons, the greatest of these being that this would be a direct violation of habeas corpus. 

A writ of habeas corpus gives individuals the right to appear before a judge after an arrest and request release. In other words, it allows prisoners to ask for the legality of their imprisonment to be examined. This serves as a vital aspect of any democracy and has been crucial in citizens retaining their freedom since the 17th century. Prisoners are already provided with so few rights in our judicial system that revoking one as critical as this would be detrimental. 

The request also states that “pre-arrest” hearings would be postponed which means that after an arrest you could be not brought in front of a judge until the national emergency is declared as over. I’m sure you can see how this is a significant infringement on the people’s right to a quick and speedy trial. These modifications would continue to be in place for the year following the national emergency. 

There’s no evidence that any of these changes would help slow the spread of COVID-19, so what benefit would this serve? This is simply the DOJ taking advantage of a time overflowing with tragedy to push their own agenda. The public is distracted by a worldwide crisis, so it seems there’s a scramble to remove as much democracy from their lives as possible while they’re completely unaware. 

To conclude, this pandemic has allowed the perfect timing for anything, from taking up a new hobby to having your rights revoked. In the end, I do not believe that congress will pass this. It almost seems bizarre to think that it could actually happen in the U.S., but every single day I am proven wrong, so who knows? If it is passed, then I’m not sure what there is for us to do. We can’t exactly hold a peaceful protest and partake in social distancing all at once. I suppose strongly worded tweets at our local representatives will have to do for now.