November 21, 2017

In new filing, ABA urges 11th Circuit to ban bail system relied upon in Calhoun, Ga.

CHICAGO, Nov. 21, 2017 — The American Bar Association filed a new amicus brief Monday, once again contending that a bail system in Calhoun, Ga., that allows pretrial release only if the defendant pays an amount of bail money fixed to a schedule of offenses violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment.


In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit remanded the case back to the trial court, requesting the judge’s injunction provide more guidance to Calhoun on how it must comply with the minimal standards required by the U.S. Constitution. The ABA’s brief is substantially similar to its brief of 15 months ago, although it noted the ABA House of Delegates updated the association’s policy in August to say the inability to pay bail should not be the sole reason for a defendant’s continued detention.


“The ABA’s recently passed resolution consolidates its established position on pretrial release issues, which, among other recommendations, urges jurisdictions to ban the use of money-bail schedules in favor of individualized and objective bail and release determinations,” the brief said.


The brief, in support of a group of defendants in Calhoun, notes that the money-bail system in which the amount of the bail is mechanically set by reference to a schedule of charges, with no consideration of the defendant’s ties to the community or financial circumstances, is unnecessary, and will hobble the accused person’s ability to muster a defense to the charges while imposing a grave human toll.


“The consequences of pretrial detention are profound — even a few days in jail can disrupt a defendant’s life, leading to long-term negative consequences,” the brief continued. “Pretrial detainees cannot work or earn income while incarcerated and may lose their jobs while waiting for a hearing, making it even more difficult to make bail. … For an indigent defendant, even a short period of confinement can wreak havoc on an already precarious financial situation.”


The amicus brief in Maurice Walker v. City of Calhoun, Ga., is available here. The 11th Circuit also has jurisdiction for Florida and Alabama.


Similar amicus briefs have been filed in cases pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit as well as the 5th Circuit. In Rodriguez v. PCC, the ABA challenged use of a probation fee schedule employed by a for-profit company in Rutherford County, Tenn. The brief in the 5th Circuit was filed in O’Donnell v. Harris County, Texas.


Go to for the ABA’s new feature that cites case and statutory law and other legal precedents to distinguish legal fact from fiction.

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