SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Friday notified the state Supreme Court that he will appeal a local judge's ruling that eliminating cash bail for criminal defendants is unconstitutional.
Raoul's notice requests the high court reverse Wednesday's ruling by Kankakee County Circuit Judge Thomas Cunnington. Cunnington decreed that the General Assembly violated the constitution's separation of powers clause by eliminating cash bail in the so-called SAFE-T Act criminal justice overhaul. The issue of bail should be left to the judiciary, he said.
The rest of the SAFE-T Act, which updates rules and procedures for law enforcement and the courts, remains intact and takes effect Sunday.
Prosecutors and sheriffs from 64 counties filed the lawsuit challenging the bail provision, called the Pretrial Fairness Act. Cunnington's ruling did not include the injunction the plaintiffs requested.
According to Raoul, that means the law still takes effect, but the judge's order, prepared by a lead plaintiff, Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow, finds it “facially unconstitutional, void and unenforceable.”
“We're monitoring developments, but here in Will County, we find Judge Cunnington's ruling applicable,” said assistant state's attorney Kevin Meyers, adding that it will be status quo in county courts on Monday.
The SAFE-T Act was borne of the May 2020 police-involved murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Buoyed by a state Supreme Court commission that recommended reform, lawmakers eliminated bail to ease the burden on defendants, who are innocent until proven guilty, who can't afford the price of pretrial freedom.
Cunnington agreed with the lawsuit's plaintiffs that the constitution provides for bail as a means of ensuring a defendant's appearance at trial. Raoul and other defendants contend that reform is there as reassurance to the accused that they have an opportunity to remain free while awaiting trial.