Monday, October 24, 2016

The American Bail Coalition is Officially Lost

You may remember when ABC first blogged about its work in New Mexico. It said, "ABC Brokers Historic Bail Reform Compromise in New Mexico" by crafting language that "is good for the State of New Mexico" Go ahead, read all about it here.

Cut to today, when ABC posts a story in which a New Mexico legislator says that she won't support the amendment and thinks that "it will have a devastating effect on New Mexico's Bail Industry."

I can now say without any doubt that ABC doesn't know what it's doing. Or maybe they thought we'd all forget. What are they saying by posting today's story -- did ABC broker a historic compromise or did they just muck everything up? Hard to say since ABC seems to be saying both things at the same time.

Another question for the ABC conference next month: "When is ABC going to learn something about bail?" But, really, I've pointed out stuff like this for a long time, so my question is more for you bail agents: "When are you going to figure out that ABC is officially lost?"

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Presumption of Innocence at Bail

Well, I got tired of hearing people say, "The presumption of innocence doesn't apply to bail" -- especially since I got the bail insurance people to stop saying it a couple of years ago -- so I wrote up a short explanation for anyone interested.

You can find it here.

I've been teaching on this a long time with a shorter document that I passed out, but this version incorporates another, more detailed argument that I heard from a very smart prosecutor.

Happy reading (it's not long)!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The American Bail Coalition Conference Agenda

Okay, now I understand the ABC strategy. I knew the bail insurance companies were on their heels – there’s just too much stuff happening all over the country for them to keep up. For a while I figured they’d just spend another million and hire 3 or 4 more lobbyists. But I see now that they expect you bail agents to do their heavy lifting.

ABC is holding their first ever affiliate conference, and it’s clear from the agenda that they’re sticking to their whole “fight everything” doctrine. “Yes,” ABC says, “the whole country is wrong, and it’s just that the right message isn’t being delivered. The sheriffs are wrong. The judges are wrong. The prosecutors and defense attorneys are wrong. The municipal, county, and state governments are wrong. The federal courts are wrong, too. So it’s just a matter of changing everyone’s mind. And we can do that by convincing everyone that they’re wrong!” Great strategy, huh? I mean, they’re even going to “debunk” certain fundamental premises, like the fact that we have a problem with bail to begin with. Folks, ABC already tried that strategy 10 years ago when we first got started. It didn’t work. Man, it really didn’t work.

But then I see that ABC expects all you bail agents to sign up for a panel and write up data and anecdotes so that you can help with the fight. ABC doesn’t even know what to say anymore, and so they need you to say it. Oh, they’ll give the standard arguments they’ve been peddling around the country, but remember what I said last week – those arguments aren’t working.

This is your chance to ask these ABC folks a few questions. What are they doing besides fighting everyone to ensure the industry continues to exist? Do they have any kind of strategy if money goes away? What happened in Santa Clara when both the current and past ABC head couldn’t even stop a county from changing? What happened in New Mexico, New Jersey, Arizona, Alaska, Utah, and Missouri? What are they doing in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, Kansas, California, and Massachusetts? What is ABC doing about the MacArthur Initiative? What about the Three Days Count Initiative or the Smart Pretrial Initiative? What are they doing about the Evidence-Based Decision Making Initiative? They’ll talk to you about the Equal Justice Under Law lawsuits (they’re fighting them, as usual), but will they mention the other four or five national organizations planning similar national litigation strategies? Do they have a plan for the Chief Justices in America, who have mostly decided to move away from a secured money bail system? What about DOJ? Do they even have any clue as to how to “fight” the DOJ?

And just today, Harvard Law School released, “Moving Beyond Money: A Primer on Bail Reform.” Did ABC even know about that, or what any other big-time law schools or universities are doing?

My bet is that ABC doesn’t even know about a quarter of these things. And I have twenty more that I can list. Instead, ABC’s specialty appears to be going on conservative talk radio stations of 1,000 watts or less. That’s why they need you to provide “anecdotes” so they can create a “bail data” document.  While you’re there, you might ask them what’s wrong with the last sentence I just wrote.

Mostly, though, I think ABC just wants a chance to try to justify itself. But if it doesn’t have a plan for how you fit into the new world of pretrial release and detention – a world that likely doesn’t involve those really high bail amounts – then they’re just killing time until your businesses all die off.

Bail agents, the bail insurance company strategy is to get you to do their fighting for them.  It’s the only way they can keep up with bail reform and not have to pay for more lobbyists with money from their own pockets. But you should seriously consider whether the strategy of fighting everything all the time is the right strategy for you. After all, it hasn’t worked so far.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Don’t Be Fooled, Bail Agents!

The bail insurance lobbyists have been trumpeting a letter from a judge in Illinois, in which he presented “the other side” of bail reform. Somebody sent me the letter pretty soon after he wrote it, and asked for my reply, which I then sent to everyone I knew in Illinois. He wrote 15 pages, I wrote about 15 pages.

So imagine my surprise when ABC said that the judge’s letter was a “devastating blow” to the “no money bail movement.” I mean, I read that letter, and it was full of the same lame arguments the bail insurance guys have been unsuccessfully peddling across the country for the last several years. In fact, there wasn’t a single new or unique thought. Really. Not one. You know, to me it kind of looked like the bail insurance guys wrote most of it. It even cites to Dennis Bartlett for goodness sake (I can’t imagine the bail lobbyists writing something for someone else to sign -- cough, cough . . . Paul Clement). This is no devastating blow. It’s just some judge. We knew there’d be some like him, and we know there’ll be more. Some of bail reform will require certain people to simply retire.

But my fundamental point is this. If this judge said anything new, or remotely inventive, or even something old in a better way, then you bail agents might have reason to believe that the insurance companies are on the right track. But the letter is none of that. It’s the same failed stuff. The stuff that didn’t work last week in Santa Clara. The stuff that didn’t hold any sway when the Conference of Chief Justices wrote its policy statement. The stuff that continues to get shot down everywhere it’s raised. The fact that they got a judge to say it is no big news. They’ve done that before, and that didn’t work either. These arguments will ultimately fail on the merits, not because they weren’t said by the right people.

I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and I can give you a list of about twenty arguments that the insurance guys have used that have failed. Most of them have been replaced with the current twenty, but those arguments also fail to take care of the fundamental problems people see in money bail. And I hope you all realize that because these arguments are coming from people who profit off the status quo, they demand a bit more finesse than these particular lobbyists are giving.  

Bail agents, the insurance lobbyists use things like this judge letter to make you think they’re making progress. But look around. Check out the PJI website and just look under the “recent news” section. Just today, I worked with California, New Mexico, Virginia, and Illinois. And believe me, the people in Illinois aren’t thinking that this one letter is any kind of “devastating blow.” Nobody else even knows it exists. Along with Illinois, the rest of the country is moving forward.

Don’t be fooled, bail agents. The bail lobbyists are inflating their efforts. They’re talking about minor victories while they continue to lose the big battles. And they’re definitely not thinking about your place in the “new” world of release and detention. Until you demand that they work on a new strategy, you’ll get bogus blogs talking about “devastating blows” and calling me and my friends names. I think you deserve much better from the people who make all their money off of you. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Here's another one they won't blog about . . .

Here's another event the bail insurance companies won’t blog about.

Santa Clara, California, soon to be the model for the rest of the state.

All this was done simply by educating people, and despite fierce opposition. California is the bail insurance companies home turf, so to speak, so movement there is monumental.