The Department of Justice is backing a lawsuit filed by Mainland residents who are challenging the constitutionality of Gov. David Ige's mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The department filed a "statement of interest" in the case Tuesday in Hawaii federal court, saying the state likely violated the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against out-of-state residents.
The lawsuit, Carmichael et. al. v. Ige, was filed by the conservative nonprofit Center for American Liberty on behalf of plaintiffs who live in Nevada and California. They own property in Hawaii and object to the quarantine requirement that Ige first imposed in March. He has extended it in his latest order through July 31.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Justice Department's civil rights division said in a statement that citizens have the right to travel freely anywhere in the country and "state governments cannot limit the right of out-of-state Americans to travel to their state unless doing so is substantially related to protecting the public safety."
Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors' office issued a response saying that the Justice Department's statement of interest is "without merit," like the lawsuit itself.
"The Governor’s Emergency Proclamation for COVID-19 and the subsequent proclamations were properly and lawfully issued pursuant to the Governor’s statutory authority and his determination that an emergency exists due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the danger and threat it poses to Hawaii," the attorney general's office said.
The Justice Department's action is part of U.S. Attorney General William Barr's call for all U.S. attorneys to be on the lookout for policies of state and local governments that violate civil liberties during the pandemic.
Prsident Trump has pushed for a quick reopening of the country and has railed against states that have been cautious in easing restrictions aimed at preventing the virus from spreading but that have impacted the economy.
In April, the Justice Department intervened in a lawsuit brought by a Greenville, Mississippi, church that objected to the city's efforts to shut down drive-in religious services. The department also filed a statement of interest in May supporting a church in Virginia challenging the governor's order prohibiting in-person religious services of more than 10 people.
The Justice Department's statement of interest in the Hawaii suit is below: