AOC slams NYC judge for ruling people arrested amid widespread unrest could be held for more than 24 hours without charge

·4 min read
NYPD New York City NYC George Floyd Protest Police
NYPD in formation as nearby demonstrators hold a rally in Times Square denouncing racism in law enforcement and the May 25 killing of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis, on June 1, 2020, in New York.

Scott Heins/Getty Images

  • A Manhattan judge on Thursday ruled that anyone arrested in the Bronx, Brooklyn, or Manhattan could be held for more than 24 hours without charge.

  • New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Friday that the ruling was "unconstitutional" and a "suspension of habeus corpus," the 900-year-old foundational legal doctrine that prohibits extended detention without charge.

  • Legal advocates said it was retaliation for protests against police brutality, while lawyers representing police said that characterization was "disenginous."

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A Manhattan judge on Thursday ruled that anyone arrested in the Bronx, Brooklyn, or Manhattan could be held for more than 24 hours without being formally charged with a crime after the Legal Aid Society, an advocacy group, sued the NYPD in connection with holding George Floyd protesters.

As of Friday, 92 New Yorkers had been held for more than 24 hours without charge, according to the Legal Aid Society.

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez condemned the ruling Friday, denouncing it on Twitter as "unconstitutional" and a "suspension of habeus corpus."

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Civil liberties protect ourselves from governments using "crises" and "emergencies" as justification to dismantle our rights.<br><br>This is suspension of habeus corpus, it is unconstitutional, and it is deeply disturbing that both NYPD is seeking it and a judge rubber stamped it. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) <a href="">June 5, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Habeas corpus is a 900-year-old legal doctrine that prohibits unlawful detention without a criminal charge and is one of the earliest bedrock principles of the English and American court systems. While the principle is protected at the Federal level by the Constitution, the 24-hour standard in New York was established by the Roundtree v. Brown case in 1991.

Habeas corpus was first lifted in America by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War to detain people with Confederate or antiwar sympathies and more recently was used to justify the indefinite detention of hundreds of people at Guantanamo Bay.

Protests have erupted across the US after a Minneapolis police officer, later charged with second-degree murder, knelt on George Floyd's neck until he died. After large protests embroiled New York for days, Mayor Bill de Blasio enacted a curfew, the first in the city since 1943.

New York City Criminal Court Judge James Burke said he made the decision because there was "a civil unrest crisis within the overarching COVID-19 crisis."

Legal Aid lawyer Marlen Bodden told the New York Post that jail conditions were challenging for social distancing, especially for people without masks or hand sanitizer. Coronavirus has the potential to spread rapidly in detention as social distancing may be impossible in cramped cells.

"This flagrant violation of law by the New York City Police Department appears to be designed to retaliate against New Yorkers protesting police brutality," said Tina Luongo, the Legal Aid lawyer in charge of the organization's criminal-defense practice, in a news release announcing the original lawsuit.

"The accusation that officers are retaliating against New Yorkers who are protesting is disingenuous, exceptionally unfair, and perhaps deliberately ignoring the fact that the Police Department is dealing with a crisis within a crisis," Patricia Miller, chief of the Special Federal Litigation Division, which defends the city police in civil suits, said in a statement to Insider.

Lucian Chalfen, a spokesperson for the Office of Court Administration, put blame on the police and prosecutors for the slow pace at which they were filing the necessary paperwork in a statement to The New York Times.

"We are working as fast and safely as we can," an NYPD spokesperson told Insider on Friday evening.

On Friday the Legal Aid Society filed an appeal to the decision.

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