Despite the fact that judges are the ones who set bail, one Cook County court judge, Judge Celia Gamrath, says it is up to lawmakers, rather than judges, to determine how judges are allowed to set bail.
The issue in question is the fact that Cook County judges have been using a cash bail system. The intention behind such a system is to give defendants a reason to appear in court, but a recent class-action lawsuit alleges it has also had the effect of discriminating against minorities and the poor, who are often unable to come up with the cash necessary to pay their own bail.
The lawsuit was filed against five Cook County court judges on behalf of two detainees who sat in jail for almost a year because they couldn’t afford to post their own bail. They both eventually pled guilty to the charges against them.
Alexa Van Brunt, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit against the judges, said they plan to appeal Judge Gamrath’s decision, claiming they hadn’t even had a chance to fully explain their arguments regarding the allegedly unconstitutional nature of the current cash bail system before Judge Gamrath dismissed them.
Van Brunt noted that the lawsuit might feel political to Gamrath because the class action is asking her to make a ruling about other Circuit Court judges. In fact, that’s not what they’re trying to do at all – instead, they are just asking the judge to help make sure the courts follow the law. But Van Brunt claimed the judge chose to get the lawsuit off her desk rather than face the consequences of ruling on a potentially sticky situation. Continue reading