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Virus-related suspension of legal deadlines worries ACLU

March 18, 2020 GMT
Among other announcements, Gov. John Bel Edwards banned gatherings of 50 or more in another dramatic step to limit the spread of the Coronavirus during a news conference at GOHSEP Monday March 16, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. He also announced the legislative session is suspended until March 31st. (Bill Feig/The Advocate via AP, Pool)
Among other announcements, Gov. John Bel Edwards banned gatherings of 50 or more in another dramatic step to limit the spread of the Coronavirus during a news conference at GOHSEP Monday March 16, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. He also announced the legislative session is suspended until March 31st. (Bill Feig/The Advocate via AP, Pool)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Steps taken by Louisiana’s governor to fight the spread of the new coronavirus could leave people stuck in state jails for weeks or months without formal legal charges, a civil rights group said Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana made the complaint in a letter.

An extensive executive order Gov. John Bel Edwards issued to help stem the spread of the virus includes suspension of numerous legal deadlines until at least April 13. The ACLU said that means many people arrested and jailed around the state could languish behind bars without formal charges being filed by local prosecutors.

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Edwards said the suspension of those legal deadlines was done at the request of the state’s court system. He defended all of his aggressive actions Wednesday, saying they’re necessary to protect public health.

The ACLU also is calling for development of a plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in local jails, state prisons and juvenile lockups.

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