Court Allows Muzzle on Deportation Cases; Newspapers Lose Bid on 9/11 Arrests

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 28, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Court Allows Muzzle on Deportation Cases; Newspapers Lose Bid on 9/11 Arrests


Byline: Frank J. Murray, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Supreme Court yesterday rejected a challenge by several news organizations that sought access to closed-door deportation hearings for hundreds of illegal aliens rounded up after September 11.

The justices refused to review a process so secret that nearly half the Justice Department's 220 immigration judges lacked the security clearance needed to hear the "special interest" cases.

New Jersey newspapers sought to penetrate the secrecy surrounding people detained in connection with terrorism investigations there and in New York.

"The press and the public have an overwhelming interest in knowing how, and how fairly, its government uses the power of detention and deportation," lawyers for the newspapers said in their appeal.

In an unrelated civil rights lawsuit argued in December, the court ruled 5-4 yesterday that police Sgt. Ben Chavez did not violate the Fifth Amendment rights of a gravely wounded farm worker in 1997 by questioning him in a hospital without reading him his Miranda rights.

The opinion for the court, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, said that because Oliverio Martinez was never charged with any crime in the case, Sgt. Chavez has qualified immunity against charges that he forced a person to be a witness against himself.

However, an unusual second opinion, written by Justice David H. Souter, ruled 5-4 that Mr. Martinez should be given the chance to pursue in lower courts a separate civil rights charge that the California policeman's action denied Mr. Martinez's 14th Amendment "constructive due process" rights.

Mr. Martinez was blinded and paralyzed after being shot five times by police. He was never charged in the case, although he admitted taking an officer's gun during the altercation and to being a heroin user.

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