A newly filed lawsuit against Cook County judges alleges that thousands of impoverished arrestees are being illegally detained in Cook County jail due solely to their inability to pay their monetary bonds, and that the illegal practices complained of disparately impact African Americans. HSPRD’s Matthew Piers, Chirag Badlani and Kate Schwartz have filed this class action, in conjunction with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and Civil Rights Corps, claiming that Cook County judges routinely impose financial conditions of release on indigent release-eligible arrestees without making an inquiry into and findings concerning the arrestees’ ability to pay the set amount of bond. The complaint, filed October 14, 2016, names two individuals detained in Cook County jail as the named plaintiffs. They contend, on behalf of a class of similarly situated release-eligible arrestees, that Cook County Circuit Court judges and Sheriff Thomas Dart are violating the United States and Illinois constitutions, as well as the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, by setting bonds in amounts that these release-eligible arrestees are unable to afford and incarcerating them as they await trial.
“Cash bail is an almost perfect example of what is wrong with our criminal justice system,” said attorney Matthew J. Piers. “When bail is set in amounts that arrestees cannot post, it robs the presumptively innocent of their fundamental right to liberty and severely handicaps their ability to defend against their criminal charges. It is time for our courts and other public officials to declare an end to this shameful practice.”
Find out more about this case here.