Illinois Supreme Court Pauses Elimination of Cash Bail

We reported on Wednesday a Kankakee County Illinois judge decided that certain portions in the Illinois “SAFE-T Act” were in violation of the Constitution and would stay in effect within 64 of Illinois 102 counties in which the law was scheduled to go into effect on the 1st of January. “The “SAFE-T Act” is a comprehensive reform of the criminal justice system that includes, among other things, removing cash bail.

Judge Thomas Cunnington's 33-page decision determined that the Act in part breached the separation of powers because the decision-making process for bail is the responsibility of courts, not the legislature.

According to the Illinois Supreme Court, it has determined that the administration of justice is an inherent authority of the courts, which the legislature is not able to violate and setting bail falls under that administration power. The legality of bail is determined by the discretion that is the judgment of the judge and will not be decided through legislation. Thus, the court concludes it is the case that Public Acts 101- 652 and 102-1104 in relation solely to pretrial release provisions are in violation of the separation of powers principle that is the foundation of our governance system in that they deprive the courts of their authority to govern and regulate their courtrooms, as well as to decide on bail. Elrod, supra.

In the wake of Wednesday's ruling, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul voiced his displeasure and on Friday the office submitted an appeal to the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.

In the afternoon of Saturday The Illinois Supreme Court issued an Order that stayed the provisions that were in question:

A couple of moments prior to the controversial overhaul of the Illinois law known as the SAFE-T Act was scheduled to go into effect in Illinois the state's top court delayed the bill's abolishment of cash bail.

The SAFE-T Act, which is scheduled to become effective on January 1st, will end the cash-bail system with an amendment called the Pretrial Fairness Act. This provision was met with bipartisan opposition and was also criticized by law enforcement officials who considered the change unlawful and a risk to the safety of the population.

Although a date for hearings hasn't yet been determined by the Court, a decision striking down a section of the law may not be a favorite with the Governor of the State. National Review:

The legislation was the idea of Illinois' Governor J.B. Pritzker, who has been cited as a possible Democratic presidential candidate for 2024. The bill was widely condemned by Republicans as well as Democrats alike as they have accused Pritzker and his associates on the legislative side of not paying attention to record-breaking rates of violence in Chicago.

The reaction to the decision was mixed.

CBS 2 reached out to various county and state offices to discuss the decision. In a joint statement, Kane as well as DuPage county attorneys for the state said, “We are very pleased with the Illinois Supreme Court's decision.”

Attorney General Kwame Raoul also reacted with a statement that reads, “We look forward to mounting a robust defense of the constitutionality of the law … and ensuring that it goes into effect across the state.”

Certainly, there's a sense of relief knowing that Monday will not be the day of confusion that can be caused by different counties using different bail procedures.

“Tomorrow was supposed to be absolute chaos at 26th and California with this new law taking effect, and I think the Illinois Supreme Court realized that in making this rather late decision today to stop that from happening tomorrow,” said CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller. “So I think they were sitting around today thinking, ‘How are we going to remedy this catastrophe?' And I'm going to use the word catastrophe if this goes ahead.”

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