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California Supreme Court Issues Unanimous, Landmark Decision in Humphrey Case Challenging the Constitutionality of Money Bail

San Francisco – March 25, 2021: In a unanimous decision published earlier today, the California Supreme Court ruled that California’s current bail system violates the federal and state constitutions. Writing for the Court, Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar noted, “whether an accused person is detained pending trial often does not depend on a careful, individualized determination of the need to protect public safety, but merely — as one judge observes — the accused’s ability to post the sum provided in a county’s uniform bail schedule.” In light of today’s ruling, judges must now consider a defendant’s ability to pay bail, in addition to the seriousness of the charges and the defendant’s prior criminal history.

In October 2018, the Bar Association of San Francisco and two other bar associations filed an amicus curiae brief in this case. The brief was written by Crowell & Moring partner A. Marisa Chun, BASF Amicus Committee co-chair, and Sarah P. Hogarth of McDermott Will & Emery, and included contributions by fellow BASF committee member Steve Hirsch of Keker Van Nest & Peters.

“It’s a landmark decision by the California Supreme Court. Justice Cuellar’s brilliant opinion makes clear the simple, but urgent, proposition, that ‘No person should lose the right to liberty simply because that person can’t afford to post bail.’ It was a privilege to represent the Bar Association of San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the Santa Clara County Bar Association in this important case, to ensure that the equal protection and due process rights of all Californians are vindicated in the real world -- not just in theory,” Chun said.

“On behalf of BASF and the Justice and Diversity Center, I congratulate Marisa for her thoughtful and impassioned advocacy on this important issue, and express our sincere appreciation to Steve and others on the Amicus Committee who devoted their time and energy to making a difference in our community,” said BASF President Marvin K. Anderson.

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