Tuesday during Hugh Hewitt’s nationally syndicated radio show, Attorney General William Barr warned that states could find themselves in hot water from the Justice Department if their coronavirus lockdowns go “too far.”
A partial transcript is as follows:
HUGH HEWITT: To use your analogy, Mr. Attorney General, sometimes even with the best-intentioned doctors, and often with quacks and idiots, malpractice occurs. If such happens, to use your analogy at the state level, will citizens be able to use either the 5th Amendment’s prohibition on condemnation without compensation or 42 USC 1983 to bring actions against the governments that were obviously indifferent to that blunt instrument’s time to be put away?
ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: Hugh, you know, again, that’s such a general hypothetical bereft of any facts or, you know, what exactly the consequences in the actions of the governor are. I really can’t answer that. But you know, one of the reasons we have federalism is because the people provide a much greater check over their governors and the state officials than they do over a more remote federal government. And the first line of defense for people is the political process in their states.
HEWITT: But theoretically, we also have 42 USC 1983, and it has occurred to me that if someone gets out of control, the best answer is not screaming at your television. It may be to litigate against individuals who are abusing our rights. And that is a long-standing tradition in the United States. It happens.
ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Well, if people bring those lawsuits, we’ll take a look at it at that time. And if we think it’s, you know, justified, we would take a position. That’s what we’re doing now. We, you know, we’re looking carefully at a number of these rules that are being put into place. And if we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them. And if they’re not and people bring lawsuits, we file statement of interest and side with the plaintiffs. And at this stage, and we’re at sort of a sensitive stage where we’re really transitioning to starting a process of trying to get the nation back up and running, you know, I think that’s the best approach. As lawsuits develop, as specific cases emerge in the states, we’ll take a look at them.