A Kankakee, Illinois County judge has ruled that parts of the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today, SAFE-T Act, violate the Illinois’ Constitution.
Pushed by radical leftist Democrats, the 764-page SAFE-T Act passed in January 2021 and would have abolished cash bail in most cases in beginning in January 1, 2023.
Because, as the Illinois Supreme Court has determined, the administration of the justice system is an inherent power of the courts upon which the legislature may not infringe and the setting of bail falls within that administrative power, the appropriateness of bail rests with the authority of the court and may not be determined by legislative fiat,” Judge Cunnington wrote in his decision.
So, the judge determined, the sections of the SAFE-T Act, which would eliminate cash bail statewide, are unconstitutional trespasses by state lawmakers and the governor upon the authority of the courts, under the state constitution’s separation of powers, and violates rights for criminal defendants and crime victims, alike.
The ruling comes eight days after Cunnington heard arguments presented by Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow against the law, and the Illinois Attorney General’s office in defense of the SAFE-T Act’s bail elimination provisions.
While the state’s attorneys presented a range of challenges to the law, the dispute ultimately came down to the question of whether the state’s Democratic supermajority ramrodded through a law that, in abolishing bail, unconstitutionally rewrote Illinois’ state constitution, trampling the rights of criminal defendants and crime victims and unconstitutionally intruding on authority legally given to the courts, in the process.
The legal challenges to the law landed in court this fall, with just weeks to go before the SAFE-T Act would make Illinois the first state in the country to forbid judges from forcing criminal defendants to pay cash bail to be released from jail while they await trial.
The Record continues:
In his ruling, however, Judge Cunnington said it is the attorney general and state lawmakers who misunderstand why bail is established in the state constitution, and has been a component of the American criminal justice system from the beginning.
Echoing the state’s attorneys’ arguments, the judge wrote: “Bail exists, as it has for centuries, to balance a defendant’s rights with the requirements of the criminal justice system, assuring the defendant’s presence at trial, and the protection of the public,” Cunnington wrote.
Further, the judge noted the state defendants had no persuasive answer to the charge that the SAFE-T Act unconstitutionally strips courts of their authority under the state constitution to set or deny bail to criminal defendants and to protect crime victims, as required by the constitution’s Crime Victims Bill of Rights.
The state constitution, Cunnington wrote, “explicitly provides that ‘the safety of the victim and the victim’s family’ must be considered ‘in denying or fixing the amount of bail, determining whether to release the defendant, and setting conditions of release after arrest and upon conviction,’” Cunnington wrote.
“The plain reading of ‘fixing the amount of bail’, the court finds, clearly refers to the requirement that the court consider the victims’ rights in setting the amount of monetary bail as the court does and has done since the passage of this amendment. In eliminating monetary bail, the discretion constitutionally vested to the courts to protect victims and their families by this method is gone,” the judge wrote.
Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe, who filed a lawsuit against the state in the case, issued a statement following the ruling.
“Today’s ruling affirms that we are still a government of the people, and that the Constitutional protections afforded to the citizens of Illinois – most importantly the right to exercise our voice with our vote – are inalienable,” Rowe said in a prepared statement.
“The Act was a 765 page bill passed during a lame duck session under cover of darkness at 4 a.m., affording legislators less than one hour to read it and vote on it, and denying the general public any opportunity to offer comment or input. It amended the State Constitution and eroded the constitutional protections of the Victim Rights Act, all while disenfranchising the people of their Constitutional right to vote on such reforms. The people of Illinois deserve better than that, and today’s verdict condemns the Act for exactly what it is: Unconstitutional.”
According to the Kankakee Co SA, this applies to the cash bail portion of the law, not body cams, other police reforms.
The release says the judge ruled lawmakers should’ve submitted cashless bail as a constitutional amendment for voters to decide #twill pic.twitter.com/emr7wjAbgb
— Ben Szalinski (@BenSzalinski) December 29, 2022