Justice Department attorneys told a federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday that he lacks the authority to temporarily halt in-person court proceedings for detained immigrants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Immigration lawyer groups, as well as five detained immigrants with upcoming hearings, filed a lawsuit earlier this month challenging in-person proceedings being held during the health crisis. Last week, with the assistance of attorneys at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order seeking a short pause for the proceedings while the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs the courts, implements policies to safely protect participants in light of the pandemic.

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