(The Center Square) – The Illinois Supreme Court took arguments over the state’s suspended no-cash bail law under advisement after oral arguments Tuesday in Springfield.
The state’s Pretrial Fairness Act, which was part of the SAFE-T Act, was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1, but was suspended the day before by the Illinois Supreme Court. That was after dozens of state’s attorneys sued to block the law and a Kankakee County judge declared the law a violation of the Illinois Constitution.
Arguments in front of the full Illinois Supreme Court panel of seven Tuesday morning lasted about 45 minutes. Justice Lisa Holder White didn’t hesitate getting directly into questions for the state’s Deputy Solicitor General Alex Hemmer.
“In the past we’ve seen where changes have been made with respect to who is entitled to bail made through constitutional amendment, why didn’t that happen here and should it have,” White asked.
“No, your honor, it should not have,” Hemmer said. “The General Assembly was not required to put these changes to voters in a constitutional referendum.”
Hemmer said the bail clause in the Illinois Constitution doesn’t require a particular method for release like cash as plaintiffs argue.
Under questioning from Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis, Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe argued they have standing.
“If we are regulated by the act, we are proper party to that litigation and plaintiffs, state’s attorneys and sheriffs are certainly regulated under that act,” Rowe said.
If cash bail were abolished, Rowe argued sheriffs and their deputies could be put in harm’s way having to go and increase their efforts to arrest recidivist offenders.
“There’s an adverse impact on your rights, is that right?” Theis asked.
“There certainly is, as the circuit court found,” Rowe replied.
The circuit court also found the law violated the separation of powers and that the act violates the Illinois Constitution’s Victims’ Bill of Rights.
Rowe argued there is a way to end cash bail that should have been followed but wasn’t.
“Take the question, put it on the ballot, propose it to the people, let them vote on it at an election,” Rowe said. “It quite simply is that easy.”
All seven justices took part in the oral argument including two of the newest justices, Mary O’Brien and Elizabeth Rochford. Before being elected to the bench in November, O’Brien and Rochford each received $1 million from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and other campaign funding from Democratic leaders named as lead defendants in the lawsuit.
The court took the case under advisement. A ruling isn’t expected for weeks.