Attorney General William Barr issued a warning to state, local governments not to infringe on fundamental freedoms and civil rights – 5/27/2020

Warning to All U.S. Attorneys Attorney General William Barr:

On Monday, April 27, 2020, in a Memorandum directed to all U.S. Attorneys, Attorney General William Barr directed each of the attorneys to be on the lookout for state and local directives in violation of the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.

The current national crisis related to COVID-19 has required the imposition of extraordinary restrictions on all of our daily lives. Millions of Americans across the nation have been ordered to stay in their homes, leaving only for essential and necessary reasons, while countless businesses and other gathering places have been ordered to close their doors indefinitely. These kinds of restrictions have been necessary in order to stop the spread of a deadly disease but there is no denying that they have imposed tremendous burdens on the daily lives of all Americans.

In prior Memoranda, I directed our prosecutors to prioritize cases against those seeking to illicitly profit from the pandemic, either by hoarding scarce medical resources to sell them for extortionate prices, or by defrauding people who are already in dire circumstances due to the severe problems the pandemic has caused. We have pursued those efforts vigorously and will continue to do so. Now, I am directing each of our United States Attorneys to also be on the lookout for state and local directives that could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.

I am therefore directing the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Eric Dreiband, and Matthew Schneider; the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, to oversee and coordinate our efforts to monitor state and local policies and, if necessary, take action to correct them. They should work not only with all Department of Justice offices and other federal agencies, but with state and local officials as well.

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