DOJ warns LA officers stay-home extension could also be ‘arbitrary and illegal’

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The letter from Eric Dreiband, assistant lawyer common for the Justice Division’s Civil Rights Division, got here in response to feedback from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who had asserted in a “Good Morning America” interview final week that town will “by no means be fully open till we now have a remedy” for the coronavirus, which has claimed greater than 3,600 lives in California.

“I feel we now have to all acknowledge that we’re not transferring past Covid-19, we’re studying to stay with it,” Garcetti mentioned.

Dreiband additionally famous latest remarks by Los Angeles County Public Well being Director Barbara Ferrer, who mentioned final week that “with all certainty” a type of stay-home restrictions will stay in place for the county’s 10 million residents “for the following three months.” Ferrer later clarified her remarks, saying that “whereas the Safer at Dwelling orders will stay in place over the following few months, restrictions might be step by step relaxed.”

Dreiband warned in his letter to Garcetti and Ferrer that the continued restrictions could also be “arbitrary and illegal.”

“Stories of your latest public statements point out that you simply urged the opportunity of long-term lockdown of the residents within the Metropolis and County of Los Angeles, whatever the authorized justification for such restrictions. Any such method could also be each arbitrary and illegal,” he mentioned.

Garcetti responded to the letter throughout a press briefing Friday night.

“Look, we aren’t guided by politics on this, we’re guided by science. We’re guided by collaboration,” he mentioned. “So speaking to business and speaking to enterprise house owners and speaking to staff and labor teams along with science, the numbers will at all times information us ahead; there may be nothing else. There is no video games, there’s nothing else occurring.”

CNN has reached out to Ferrer’s workplace for remark.

Earlier this month, California started reopening, permitting some retail outlets, producers and logistics companies to return on Might 8. Not less than 43 of the state’s 58 counties have been permitted to open even additional, permitting extra retail purchasing and eating in eating places. Los Angeles, nevertheless, the place greater than 2,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus have been recorded, has moved extra slowly.
Garcetti had instructed CNN final week that residents should not overreact to Ferrer’s announcement that the stay-at-home order will keep in place for months.

“When our county well being officer Dr. Ferrer merely mentioned that an order would keep in place for at the least three extra months, that does not imply the order stays in place precisely as it’s immediately,” he instructed Anderson Cooper. The extension of the stay-at-home order is “only a reminder of how delicate and fragile this time is, however don’t freak out if you hear a scientist say that it is nonetheless going to be right here and we’re nonetheless going to be residing underneath well being orders.”

Garcetti — and Ferrer — have mentioned restrictions on shops and public locations will step by step be eased as well being knowledge exhibits it’s attainable. In addition they need therapy for coronavirus and testing to turn into extra available. The mayor mentioned that some weak inhabitants teams could need to proceed staying at residence.

Dreiband warned in his letter Friday that whereas native officers can impose restrictions on residents to guard their security throughout emergencies, “the Structure and federal statutory legislation prohibit arbitrary, unreasonable actions.”

“Merely put, there isn’t a pandemic exception to the U.S. Structure and its Invoice of Rights,” he mentioned.

Garcetti is not the one California official to be contacted by the Division of Justice’s Civil Rights Division this week. Dreiband additionally despatched Gov. Gavin Newsom a letter warning him that the state’s plan to reopen amid the pandemic discriminated towards homes of worship.
Within the letter on Tuesday, Dreiband asserted that the reopening plan, which permits for a return to eating places and purchasing malls forward of non secular companies, contained “pronounced unequal therapy of religion communities” that might run afoul of the First Modification.

“The Division of Justice doesn’t search to dictate how States equivalent to California decide what diploma of exercise and private interplay needs to be allowed to guard the security of their residents,” Dreiband wrote. “Nevertheless, we’re charged with upholding the Structure and federal statutory protections for civil rights.”

“Whichever degree of restrictions you undertake, these civil rights protections mandate equal therapy of individuals and actions of a secular and spiritual nature,” he added.

President Donald Trump introduced Friday that his administration is issuing steering deeming locations of worship “important” throughout the coronavirus pandemic, calling on governors to reopen spiritual establishments for companies.

Trump threatened to “override” governors if their states didn’t comply with the brand new federal suggestions, however it was unclear what authority the President was referring to. The suggestions are voluntary.

This story has been up to date with feedback from Garcetti.

CNN’s Caroline Kelly, Allen Kim and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.

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