Sally Yates joins prosecutors in bail battle

Sally Yates joins prosecutors in bail battle

Former Acting and Deputy Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesNo glory in James Comey getting away with his abuse of FBI power Is Mueller team bludgeoning to get narrative it wants? The Hill's Morning Report — Where the Kavanaugh nomination stands MORE joined a group of 28 current and former prosecutors Tuesday to urge a federal appeals court to strike down a Georgia city’s money bail system.

The push came in a friend of the court brief filed by the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law, where Yates is a distinguished lecturer on behalf the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. 

The City of Calhoun changed its bail system after it was first sued and now provides individuals who are arrested with a bail hearing within 48 hours. If the court determines they are too poor to pay, they can be released on their own recognizance.

But in the brief, organized by the group Fair and Just Prosecution, the former and current prosecutors argue even brief detention based on an inability to pay can yield serious harms such as loss of a job or disrupted family connections and does little to dispel the public perception of unfairness in the justice system.

The people most adversely impacted by wealth-based bail systems, they said, are often those from the very communities where the victims and witnesses of crimes that prosecutors rely on for evidence live.

“The willingness of these victims and witnesses to report crimes to law enforcement, cooperate with prosecutors, show up for court proceedings and testify truthfully depends on their confidence that the system will treat them and their loved ones fairly,” they wrote. 

“Seeing indigent defendants detained (or experiencing it themselves), even for 48 hours, for no reason other than indigence, while others similarly situated but able to post bail go free, undermines the legitimacy of the criminal justice system and the credibility of those entrusted to prosecute crimes within it.”

A district court found the city’s standing bail order to be unconstitutional, but the city disagrees. 

It claims the policy provides for meaningful consideration of other possible alternatives to release based on the master bail schedule, within a time period that the Supreme Court has previously held to be "prompt" under the Fourth Amendment.