A federal judge in Detroit ruled Wednesday that a government policy to close deportation hearings of individuals targeted in the sweeping terrorism investigation launched after the Sept. 11 attacks is unconstitutional.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds is the first by a federal judge on the controversial issue of closed hearings and could have broad implications.
"This has national ramifications," said Lee Gelernt, a senior staff attorney at the Immigrants' Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU has a similar case pending in Newark, N.J., that is scheduled to be heard on April 22.
"The judge made it clear that the judiciary cannot look away just because the government says it has to do with 9/11," Gelernt said. "We suspect that the government has conducted hundreds of closed hearings, but it is impossible to know because there has been so much secrecy."
Justice Department spokesman Dan Nelson said department attorneys would have no immediate comment.
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