Saturday night marked a successful Vanguard Court Watch event with San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi as the keynote speaker. Phil Telfeyan discussed the lawsuit against bail reform filed in federal court by his group, Equal Justice Under the Law, which challenges the monied bail system. A panel discussion also featured the ACLU’s Mica Doctoroff and Jessica Bartholow from the Western Center on Law & Poverty.
In his talk, Phil Telfeyan discussed the plight of his client – a woman with no criminal record and responsible for the care of her 80-year-old grandmother. Because of the bail put on her, she would have had to come up with $15,000 in bail. She needed immediate release from custody, Mr. Telfeyan explained, and the bail bonds people allowed her to come up with just $1500 but she would have to pay back the full $15,000 bail at the highest rate of interest allowed under the law.
Amazingly, the case against her was exceedingly weak and the San Francisco District Attorney’s office dropped the charges – but that did not end her bail obligations to pay back the debt. Now she and her family are having to pay $200 a month for years.
The Vanguard audience, thanks to Sunny Shine’s agreement to match all money raised, raised $436 for this woman and Ms. Shine matched that to raise the donation to $872, which can allow her to not have to make payments for four months.
This troubling case raises the need for bail reform.
Here are the remarks of Phil Telfeyan: