Right to Counsel

Key_development Question_mark

04/23/2020, Legislation, Quarantine/Isolation

The Mayor has authority to issue rules to prevent and control the spread of communicable diseases, environmentally or occupationally related diseases, and other diseases or medical conditions…".  D.C. Code § 7-131(a).  Those rules can include “…requirements and procedures for restriction of movement, isolation, and quarantine…”. D.C. Code § 7-131(a)(3).


When there is “…probable cause to believe that a person is affected with a communicable disease or is a carrier of a communicable disease and that the person’s presence in the general population is likely to cause death or seriously impair the health of others,” the Mayor can issue a written order of removal of the person “for the purpose of isolation, quarantine, or treatment.”  D.C. Code § 7-133(a).  This order must state a “place of detention” either in the District of Columbia or outside of it.  Id.  This is also applicable to “…one or more groups of people at one or more locations…”. D.C. Code § 7-133(c).  In the case of a group, the order will set out the bounds of the area covered by the order.  Id.  The order expires within 24 hours, unless a court orders the detention continued. D.C. Code § 7-134(a).  If the order is continued by the court, the person or group detained under the order can petition for a hearing. D.C. Code § 7-134(b).  There is no right to counsel articulated for a petitioner under this subsection.


For people who are detained pursuant to the order above, the “…Mayor shall cause to be conducted…medical examinations…to determine whether any detained person is affected with a communicable disease and immediately discharge any person who is not affected with a communicable disease.”  D.C. Code § 7-135(a).  "A person who has been diagnosed as being affected with a communicable disease," can be detained for “…as long as necessary to protect the public health.” D.C. Code § 7-135(b).  Under § 7-135(b), the detained person can request a hearing and has a right to counsel.  Id.  [‘A person detained pursuant to this subsection who chooses to petition the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for a discharge hearing shall be provided with counsel if the person detained cannot afford counsel.”].


The District of Columbia Public Health Emergency Manual (2019) states that “counsel may be appointed by the court for individuals in all cases where an individual faces a loss of liberty and the United States Constitution or any other law requires such appointment of counsel.” Page 6, citing to D.C. Code § 11-2602. Furthermore, the Manual discusses habeas corpus relief for detained individuals, pursuant to D.C. Code § 16-1901, but the right to counsel is not addressed. Page 62.


Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes