U.s. Department of Justice Files Brief In Case Challenging Bail Practices

19th August, 2016

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – In a brief signed by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta and U.S. Attorney John A. Horn, the U.S. Department of Justice asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to affirm a federal district court’s ruling earlier this year in the case of Walker v. City of Calhoun that the pretrial release practices used in Calhoun, Georgia, violate the U.S. Constitution.

The appeal involves a challenge to the City of Calhoun’s practice of offering immediate release to people who are arrested for misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and ordinance violations, but only if they can pay a preset amount of money.  People too poor to pay the preset amount must wait in jail for up to a week, sometimes longer, before they are eligible for release.  

In September 2015, plaintiff Maurice Walker, an indigent man who was detained under the City of Calhoun’s bail policy, challenged the policy in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.  In January 2016, the district court found the policy unconstitutional and entered an injunction requiring the city to implement constitutional procedures.  The city has appealed that ruling.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s brief explains that the district court was correct in holding that a bail scheme is unconstitutional if it detains indigent people without meaningful consideration of ability to pay or alternative methods of assuring their appearance at future court proceedings.  In addition, the brief discusses the problems that result from unnecessary pretrial detention, such as jail overcrowding and increased burdens on taxpayers.  The brief concludes that bail practices like Calhoun’s are not only unconstitutional “but also conflict with sound public policy considerations.”

To read the amicus brief from the Department of Justice, click here

To read more about the case, click here. 

For additional information, contact Kathryn Hamoudah at 404/819-4233 or khamoudah@schr.org