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Court stay keeps terrorism-related detention hearings closed

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         SIXTH CIRCUIT         Secret Courts         Apr 11, 2002    

Court stay keeps terrorism-related detention hearings closed

  • Justice Department lawyers appealed a judge’s ruling to open immigration hearings in Detroit and were granted a stay, keeping terrorist-related detention hearings closed at least temporarily.

A federal appeals court on April 10 temporarily halted a federal judge’s order demanding the release of transcripts from the deportation hearings of a Muslim community leader from Ann Arbor, Mich., detained after the Sept.11 attacks.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals (6th Cir.) in Cincinnati halted U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds’ ruling that ordered Detroit Immigration Judge Elizabeth Hacker to let the press attend the deportation hearings of Rabih Haddad. The ruling also required Hacker to distribute transcripts and other documents to the press from three of Haddad’s previous hearings.

Despite a memo issued by chief U.S. Immigration Judge Michael Creppy in September directing all immigration judges to ban family members, the press and public from immigration hearings relating to terrorist inquiries, Edmunds ruled last week that it is unconstitutional to hold the legal proceedings of immigration detainees in secret.

“Openness is necessary for the public to maintain confidence in the value and soundness of the government’s actions,” she wrote in her opinion.

But Edmunds wrote that the public doesn’t enjoy an absolute right to attend such hearings. The government, however, cannot close them with a blanket order and must justify closing proceedings.

Edmunds’ decision is the first federal court decision concerning the Justice Department’s attempt to close detainee hearings. About 700 hearings have been closed nationwide.

(Detroit Free Press, et al. v. John Ashcroft, et al.) KG

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