Monday, May 1, 2017

Money Bail Loses in Harris County, Texas

Those of us out changing bail across America over the weekend already saw this, but if you're just waking up, the federal judge in Harris County ruled that "Harris County's policy and practice violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution." What policy and practice is that? It's the traditional money bail system used in jurisdictions all over the country.

The memorandum and opinion is long, but you can read it here.

I'll have more in the future on this, only because it was mostly the bail insurance companies trying to run this litigation. They provided the experts (which were trashed in the opinion), and they supplied all the faulty legal arguments. In fact, you can see that the County was out of its depth through what various county officials said on the record. But this loss isn't a loss for Harris County -- it'll survive and eventually make appropriate changes. But the bail insurance companies are going to have to go back to the old drawing board.

Additionally, and to their credit, many criminal justice leaders in Harris County agreed even before the hearing that the system there was unfair and unconstitutional. That's happening all over the U.S.

Let the spin begin. The bail insurance companies will now be trying to convince the county to appeal. It shouldn't, as it will lead to a tremendous amount of money spent on a futile cause. They'll also try to convince bail agents that, in the end, they'll win. So expect an appeal for more of your money as well.

I've worked in law for a dang long time, and I've worked for federal courts. I've never seen anyone put more time and money into a motions hearing than the bail insurance companies did in this one. But, you see, you can't lobby federal judges. You can't change the constitution. And, in the end, you can't hold on to an inherently unfair money bail system.