(The Center Square) – The Illinois Attorney General’s Office has filed a response to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of ending cash bail by saying lawsuit plaintiffs’ arguments should be rejected.
Dozens of state’s attorneys from around Illinois joined together to file a lawsuit to have the Illinois SAFE-T Act’s bail provision thrown out.
The state’s attorneys argue that the Illinois Constitution requires the state to maintain a system of monetary bail because that system is mandated by the bail clause, crime victims’ rights clause and the separation of powers clause.
A Kankakee County Circuit Court judge’s ruling initially affected 64 counties where state’s attorneys filed lawsuits to prevent the law from going into effect.
Just before the law was to go into effect on January 1, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered a hold on the cashless bail portion of the SAFE-T Act from going into effect statewide.
In a brief filed Monday, the office of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said that the “plaintiffs’ response brief identifies no persuasive reason to affirm the circuit court’s sweeping decision striking down the pretrial release provisions.”
The office went on to note that the court reasoned that three separate provisions of the Illinois Constitution independently require the state to maintain a system of monetary bail and that only courts, not the Illinois General Assembly, can regulate the conditions under which criminal defendants may be detained pending trial.
“Those unprecedented holdings are incorrect, and would effectively bar the General Assembly from ever reforming pretrial procedures in the State,” the brief said.
Jeffrey Clayton, executive director of the organization American Bail Coalition, agrees with state’s attorneys who argue that an outright ban on bail is unlawful without a change in the state constitution.
He points to existing language that states that all persons in Illinois shall be “bailable by sufficient sureties.”
This refers to money or something of monetary value and is a guarantee of the constitutional rights of a defendant, the group argues.
Clayton said he does not understand why some in Illinois are revisiting the ending of cash bail.
“I don’t and that’s why this is a confusing move because they did it several years ago when the New Jersey question was in vogue and obviously the results didn’t pan out and the alternatives to money bail seem to make the problem worse,” Clayton told The Center Square.
Clayton also said that getting rid of cash bail would mean it must be replaced by something else, such as preventative detention, along with a system of pretrial supervision and due process hearings, but notes that the costs to implement and operate such a system would be astronomical.
The Illinois Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case on March 14.