Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that the need for strong restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus may be passing and that the Justice Department might consider taking legal action against states that go too far.

Barr said the restrictions, such as shutting down businesses and requiring people to stay home, are intrusions on civil liberties that may be justified under the broad police powers states have to protect public health. But he said governors may go too far and interfere with interstate commerce, which is the domain of the federal government.

If that happens, “we’ll have to address that,” Barr said, which could take the form of the federal government’s joining in support of lawsuits that challenge state restrictions.

The Justice Department took just such an action just last week, filing a statement in support of a small Mississippi church that sued city officials who tried to shut down a drive-in church service while allowing a local drive-in restaurant to stay open.

He called stay-at-home orders “disturbingly close to house arrest.”


NBC News, 21st April 2020.

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