Lawyers for detainees at Guantánamo Bay are fighting the U.S. Department of Justice's attempt to push back filing deadlines because of the government shutdown. The detainees' lawyers say the case, a dispute over access to counsel, is too important to delay.
The government is appealing a federal district judge's order from July blocking the U.S. Department of Defense from requiring detainees to undergo groin searches before meeting with lawyers. U.S. District Senior Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington found the search policy was designed to actively discourage detainees from communicating with their lawyers.
On October 11, the government asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to extend its deadline for a brief due October 22, citing the Justice Department's limited operations during the shutdown. Today, lawyers for the detainees replied that they would agree to push back the deadline by a few days, but not to the degree the government wanted.
Lamberth's order halting the genital-area searches is on hold while the government appeals.
Covington & Burling associate Brian Foster, an attorney for the detainees, told the court in today's filing that the "longer the Court’s stay is in place, the longer the Guantanamo detainees with habeas petitions will continue to be forced either to forgo meeting or talking with counsel, on the one hand, or to submit to religiously offensive genital-area searches as precondition to meeting with counsel, on the other."
The government asked the court to delay the deadline until 11 days after the shutdown ends, noting that its lawyers were only allowed to work in "very limited circumstances" absent appropriations from Congress.