Lawsuit Alleges that Judges Delegate Pretrial Release Decisions to County Officials
From the motion for a preliminary injunction in Frazier v. Prince George’s County (D. Md.), filed yesterday by lawyers at Civil Rights Corps, the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy & Protection at Georgetown Law, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP (note that these are of course just the plaintiffs’ allegations):
A presumptively innocent person may not be jailed prior to trial unless a “judicial officer finds that no condition or combination of conditions” of release will reasonably protect the community and ensure that the person will return to court. This guarantees that pretrial liberty remains “the norm,” and detention while awaiting trial a “carefully limited exception.”
Yet every night in Prince George’s County, hundreds of people sit in jail in violation of this constitutional command. None of these people have been convicted of the crimes of which they are accused. No judicial officer has found that detaining these people prior to trial is necessary to reasonably ensure community safety or their return to court. Indeed, in each case, a judicial officer has found that the person can safely be released on some conditions.
These people remain jailed because Prince George’s County District and Circuit Court judges abdicate their legal duty to set bail, and delegate it instead to unaccountable, non-judicial officials within the County Department of Corrections. These officials then decide whether, when, and on what conditions a person will be released while awaiting trial. The officials delay that decision for weeks or months, during which time the person languishes in purgatorial detention. In many cases, the officials ultimately decide—behind closed doors, and according to their own arbitrary criteria unrelated to community safety or flight risk—that, despite the authorization or order of a court, they will not relea
Article from Latest