Working in partnership with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office,Civil Rights Corps has filed and won numerous state and federal habeas petitions on behalf of people in jail awaiting trial who were detained solely because they were unable to pay money bail. Our work led the California Attorney General to announce that: “The Department of Justice has determined that it will not defend any application of the bail law that does not take into consideration a person’s ability to pay, or alternative methods of ensuring a person’s appearance at trial.”
In January 2018, the California Court of Appeal issued one of the best and most thorough opinions in American history on the subject of bail. The court granted a writ of habeas corpus to our client, 63-year-old Kenneth Humphrey and, in the process, wrote an opinion that revolutionizes bail setting in California. After decades of unconstitutional detention of the poor, the Humphrey case sets a vital precedent will go a long way toward ending our unjust money bail system.
Humphrey is now pending in the California Supreme Court, where oral argument was held on January 5, 2021. The California Supreme Court will decide whether to uphold the lower court’s ruling that it violates the federal Constitution to jail someone solely because they cannot pay money bail. The Court will also likely decide another issue of vital importance: in what cases the California Constitution allows a person to be jailed pretrial. This decision will determine whether the State separates hundreds of thousands of people from their families and communities while those people await trial.
In connection with our work in the courts, we are partnering with directly impacted people, community organizers, public defenders, and local officials across California to de-normalize pretrial human caging and to change the assembly line culture of the bail setting.