Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bail Insurance "Accountability"

Here's an example of bail insurance "accountability" in El Paso County, Colorado.

Defendant: Gustavo Marquez

Case #1 -- 17CR1150, felony assault, kidnapping, child abuse. No risk assessment, no supervision, released on $5,000 surety bond with no further conditions.

Case #2 -- 17CR1586, while on release for case # 1, arrested for double homicide (victims = 15-year-old-boy and 16-year-old girl). Now being held without bail.

The kicker? Nobody forfeited the $5000.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

My No Spin Zone

I have no idea why bail insurance people (including the insurance infested PBUS) can't report anything without considerable spin. Here's the truth about a couple of things they've reported on lately.

First, the 11th Circuit remand was not a "huge win" or a "major blow" for anyone. It got sent back kind of on a technicality (an important technicality, sure, but still a technicality). I used to write opinions for a circuit court of appeals, and this is not the kind of opinion that means much of anything. The district court judge already thought Walker was likely to win on the merits, and if nothing changes, he may well find the very same thing again. Another injunction, another appeal. It's a royal pain in the rear to have to do stuff over again, if it comes to that, but it's not a huge win for anyone.

The absolute truth (which people on "my side" don't even like to hear) is that preliminary injunctions are really rare, and super hard to get. I never expected one, especially on a tricky topic like bail. In fact, over time, I think we'll see both wins and losses in the district courts. I predict, however, that the "no money bail" push will ultimately be embraced by the federal courts. It's just going to take a while. If you do see a bunch of preliminary injunctions, though, that's really bad news for money bail. It's why the insurance folks are spending so much money down in Texas.

Second, somebody apparently watched the Pi-Con pretrial conference, made fun of it, and said it meant that everything was going to swing back the insurance company's way. I was there, and what I saw actually gave me quite a shock. We were going to watch a debate about money bail from a more conservative guy (Mark Levin from Right on Crime) versus a more liberal guy (Rep. Ted Lieu), and I expected disagreement. But there wasn't any. Both predicted the end of money bail because it made no sense whether you were conservative or liberal. Mark mentioned possibly using defendant collateral, but not through families or through a commercial surety system.

The absolute truth is that the disagreement between conservatives and liberals will come not from the elimination of money, but from where to draw the line between release and detention in a moneyless world. Nobody has gotten that far yet, but they soon will.

I also talked to more than a few judges, and they said essentially what I heard at a Conference of Chief Justice's conference not long ago. The judges said, "We just aren't going to use commercial sureties anymore." You can fight all you want, but if you leave money in the system and judges simply don't use it, it's all over. You can try to force judges to set a surety bond -- I've seen many attempts of that in the states, some even successful. But I've never seen anyone force a particular amount, and that's where all the forcing fails.

There's still time for bail agents to find a place in this new world of pretrial release and detention, but you won't get there listening to the insurance companies.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Bail Agents Leading Bail Reform?

How does the one group of people who's neck deep in bail (i.e., the bail agents) end up completely outside of bail reform? That’s the question I’ve been asking myself lately. 

The answer isn’t all that complicated. It’s because the insurance companies don’t know anything about you, and they didn’t consult you when they decided on a strategy to fight everything in bail reform.

 I’m not kidding when I say they don’t know you. The other day the head of PBUS said you all had been around for 200 years. That’s wrong, and it’s proof that they don’t know your history. Commercial sureties have been around for 120 years, but that’s not a bad thing. The fact is, when commercial bail bonding came about in America’s history, bail bondsmen were the white knights – riding in to fix a system that nobody else knew how to fix. Your predecessors helped America figure out how to get people out of jail who shouldn’t have been in jail to begin with. It was a huge thing, and something you all should be proud of. 

 The point, though, is that the insurance companies don’t even know any of this, and yet they try to speak on your behalf. Now they simultaneously say states should maintain a right to bail, but that everyone who is arrested is a violent criminal and should be locked up. It’s the most contradictory thing I think I’ve ever heard. The other day someone showed me the hashtag, “savebailkeepeminjail.” Only an insurance goofball could dream that up.    

Then there’s that “fight everything” strategy. They probably don’t know this either, but that strategy actually got going in 1965, when Attorney General Kennedy held the first National Conference on Bail and Criminal Justice. There were two people representing the industry at that Conference, and guess what? Yep, they were both insurance guys. The first guy basically said, good luck trying to change anything. He gave no help whatsoever in trying to figure out the kinds of things the participants were questioning. Instead, he just kept saying that the system was great the way it was. In the end, he said: “We do say, however, that the bail bond business is something that will go on forever. It cannot be abolished.” So there.

 The second guy actually said a few things that current bail insurance dudes could learn from. First he talked about the presumption of innocence (you may recall that today’s insurance people used to argue that it didn’t exist at bail). Then he talked about surety bonds being a more equitable than England’s system, which tended to refuse bail altogether in much higher numbers. But in the end, he basically said that trying to change anything about his particular bail insurance industry was socialism, and that it would lead to the socialization of the entire insurance industry and ultimately all industry. Now, I wouldn’t call that figuring out solutions, would you? 

You bail agents could be the people who help everyone figure out what to do next, and yet you have chosen to give your power to insurance people, who don’t understand you, your history, or your potential place in the future of American pretrial release and detention.   

There's no place in that future for insurance companies. They know that, which is why they fight everything. Once you know it, you’ll cut them loose and maybe help everyone with a solution. Think about it – bail agents leading bail reform. It actually makes sense. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

PBUS Head: “We don’t want to kill our clients . . .”

“We don’t want to kill our clients . . . it sort of kills [our] repeat business.” Yep, that’s what the PBUS head said in an interview the other day.

Okay, I know that was probably meant to be funny, but I listened to the rest of the interview and I heard a lot of crazy-ass stuff – you know, stuff about George Soros being behind some secret cabal that means the end to money bail in America.

Look, I know people like to have an enemy. And I know it’s intriguing to talk about some dark, nefarious enemy who nobody even knows about, but who is really some grand puppeteer behind the scenes screwing things up for everyone. But in this case, it just isn’t so. I’m right here. George Soros is somewhere out there. I do bail reform everywhere. I’m not sure what he does anywhere. We haven’t talked, and I haven’t even seen one word mentioned about him except from groups like PBUS.

Bail agents, if this is the strategy that you told PBUS and ABC to pursue, then God bless you. But even if you did, I hope you realize how nuts it all sounds out loud.