The Battle Over Courtroom Doors

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“Democracies die behind closed doors.” That is the blunt language the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati used this week to tell the U.S. Justice Department you cannot hold secret deportation hearings for a man who’s overstayed his visa just because you allege he might have ties to terrorist organizations.

Show us the evidence, the appeals court said, open the courtroom door. This is just one of four recent cases in which judges are challenging the Justice Department policies in the aftermath of September 11. The executive branch of the government says hearings must be secret to protect national security. But the judges have another message: something there is that does not love a closed courtroom door.


Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), brought suit against Justice Department over closed immigration hearings

Michael J. Madigan, senior partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Washington DC

Philip Heymann, professor, Harvard Law School