ATLANTA (February 8, 2019) — A group of 85 criminal justice leaders – including current and former local, state and federal prosecutors and other law enforcement officials, former Department of Justice leaders, and former judges from 34 different states and the District of Columbia – filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief yesterday in Hester v. Gentry, a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit challenging the constitutionality of bail system used by Cullman County, Alabama. The brief supports the district court’s decision that detaining poor people before trial based solely on their inability to pay pre-determined money bail – while those who are able to pay go free – violates equal protection and due process rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The amicus brief is the latest in a series of filings in cases across the country in which prosecutors and others responsible for public safety have weighed in against the use of cash bail. The brief was written by litigators at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) and was coordinated by Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting a justice system grounded in fairness, equity, compassion, and fiscal responsibility. Last week, ICAP and FJP led the filing of a similar brief in Daves v. Dallas County, a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The group of signees includes:

  • 37 sitting elected prosecutors, including attorneys general, district attorneys, and state attorneys;
  • 13 current or former police chiefs or sheriffs;
  • 18 former attorneys general, district attorneys and U.S. Attorneys;
  • former head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice Vanita Gupta and former acting U.S. Solicitor General Walter Dellinger

In Hester v. Gentry, the plaintiffs argue that Cullman County’s practice of detaining individuals pretrial solely because they cannot afford to pay pre-determined amounts of money bail, with no findings about their ability to pay or whether their detention is necessary to ensure their appearance at future court hearings or protect public safety, violates constitutional equal protection and due process rights. The amicus brief supports the district court’s order enjoining this wealth-based detention system.

The full list of 85 signatories is listed in the amicus brief, which can be read here. For more on the need for bail reforms, watch ICAP’s Mary McCord explain the constitutional problems with money bail in a video for Georgetown Law’s “Legalese” series or read FJP’s Issue Brief on Bail Reform.